Improving Rack Safety Through Regular Inspections
Guest blog by Charles Carbonneau from MHI Member Company Damotech
Where there are forklifts, there is bound to be damaged warehouse racking. Lift trucks, pallet jacks, and other material handling equipment are among the leading causes of damage to industrial steel storage racks. But the pallets they carry can also strike rack components as they are being transported or handled, and damaged warehouse racking is often left unreported. Some forklift operators aren’t aware of the dents they cause or the consequences this may have on the system as a whole. They are also less likely to report an accident involving a pallet rack system if they fear retaliation. However, aside from the more forceful and visible impacts caused by these trucks, there are several other ways a pallet rack’s integrity can be compromised:
– Missing components such as braces, anchors, or beam clips.
– Unknown load capacity of the rack and improper loading of pallets can create instability or stress on a concentrated part of the rack causing the system to implode or collapse in a domino effect. Knowing the max unit load and communicating it to your workers with labels or plaques will help avoid overloading the beams and racking systems.
– Modifying the original configuration of your rack, such as moving a beam height or removing a beam without an engineer’s approval can result in a weakened structure, causing increased risk to those who work around it.
– Rust or corrosion of components, especially in warehouse environments exposed to humidity.
– Complacency or unawareness of deficienciescan lead to unaddressed rack damage and unnecessary risk.
Who can perform an inspection?
Although the majority of damaged warehouse racking occurs between the floor and the first horizontal beam, damage can occur at any level, and it’s not always visible from the floor. Only a thorough examination or assessment will tell you if your racking system is safe. An engineer or safety specialist experienced with racking systems is best suited to help you assess the conformity of your racking systems and can support you in prioritizing the issues once they have been reported. An engineer can also make sure your rack capacity is accurately calculated and valid. However, this doesn’t mean you or a member of your warehouse personnel can’t start by performing a walk-through of your warehouse today.
How frequently should a warehouse be inspected?
OSHA and ANSI remain vague on the required frequency of warehouse rack inspections. It mostly depends on the activity and speed at which rack related issues accumulate in a particular warehouse. Some aisles may require daily or weekly inspections. As a rule of thumb, we recommended monthly scheduled inspections by warehouse personnel and yearly independent inspections by a third party.
– Inspections are the best way to know if your racking systems are compliant.
– Once damage has been identified, it should be replaced or repaired. Don’t wait for it to worsen.
– The rack’s load capacity should be calculated and displayed, and these calculations and drawings (LARCs) should be up to date and kept available for consultation.
– Pallet racks are connected in a giant web of steel. Just one severely damaged upright can compromise the rest of the system, causing it to collapse. Act now!
Rack Safety via Regular Inspections & Employee Education
Regular inspections are a great first step to prevent further damage and reduce the risk of rack failure. All identified damage should be reported, and severely damaged uprights should be unloaded immediately.
Since racks are living entities, they require routine inspections as part of an established maintenance program. Part of this safety initiative is to share reoccurring safety and damage issues with warehouse employees so that they may also become reliable for identifying and communicating issues to higher management. Rack safety is truly a team effort and the benefits of creating a culture of warehouse safety cannot be understated