Many manuals and official guidelines recommend that warehouse managers conduct regular inspections on their rack systems to assess their performance and safety. If your warehouse is equipped with used racks, inspecting them is critical to ensure they are still safe to use and capable of supporting their original load capacity.
However, these guidelines don’t always clearly explain when an inspection is required or what it involves. Identifying and assessing signs of damage on your used racking can help you promote warehouse rack safety and prevent costly accidents.
When to Inspect Your Racks
Regular pallet rack inspections are necessary for safety, but it is essential to understand when to expect them and who should conduct them.
Although inspections can be done internally or with the help of a third party, they should only be conducted by qualified personnel familiar with all relevant Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) and OSHA regulations. For larger facilities, you can hire professional inspection services to ensure compliance.
Regular monthly or quarterly inspections of your uprights keep you updated on the condition of your racking. They allow you to estimate their wear and damage rate, giving you an idea of when to plan for repairs or replacement.
In certain jurisdictions, routine inspections may be a legal requirement or part of a corporate regulatory audit. In these situations, you typically need to submit documents and paperwork stating that your racking systems have been inspected and are safe to use.
After installation or modification
If you’ve recently purchased used pallet racking, inspecting them thoroughly before installing and using them is the best way to assess their performance and spot less-evident signs of damage.
The same applies if your storage racks have been recently reconfigured, repaired, replaced, or modified in any capacity. These post-modification inspections ensure that any changes conducted have not negatively impacted your racks’ performance.
How to Inspect Your Racks
Addressing the wear and damage on your racks is not as simple as spotting a dent in one of your uprights and deciding to have it replaced. There are several key areas on your racking system that need inspection, including:
The uprights are the most critical load-bearing elements of your racking system. Damaged uprights should be addressed as soon as possible; upright beam failures may compromise the entire unit, representing a significant safety risk.
When looking for frontal and lateral damage, look for traces of impacts, bends, cracks, pinches, or bulges and check the resulting amount of beam deflection.
Use a measuring tape along the length of your uprights, and measure the size of any deflection gaps you find. There should be no more than 0.125” of frontal deflection and no more than 0.25” of lateral deflection for every 40” on each upright.
Support braces provide additional structural strength to a racking unit. If they are broken or excessively bent, the entire unit’s stability and maximum load capacity may be compromised.
Check the braces for cracks, cuts, and signs of damage. If you find deflections, ensure they are no larger than 0.375”.
Column bases and foot plates
Damaged column bases typically result from forklift impacts, especially if the pallet rack lacked column protectors.
Inspect your column bases for signs of damage and ensure the foot plates are secured and bolted to the floor properly. Damaged bases or foot plates significantly increase the risk of collapsing. If you find signs of such damage, you should replace or repair the uprights as soon as possible.
According to ANSI requirements, all pallet rack bases and anchors must be in secure, fastened positions. They connect the racking system to the building, enabling it to absorb pushing or striking forces, such as strong winds, earthquakes, or handling equipment impacts.
Verify that each bolt and nut is present, seated straight, and in good condition. Don’t forget to check the shims; they should be made of an appropriate material (steel is preferable), adequately seated, and match the foot plate’s dimensions.
Inspect every beam for signs of deflection. Some deflection is acceptable, and in some cases, inevitable (especially if the beams are supporting close to their maximum load). However, verifying the exact amount is critical to ensure it does not exceed the maximum allowable value for the beam’s length.
The beam deflection formula is “L divided by 180”. Measure the beam’s length (L) in inches. Divide L by 180 to obtain the maximum amount of deflection allowable for that beam. For example, a 12’ beam (144”) should have no more than ⅘” of deflection (144 divided by 180 equals 0.8, or ⅘.)
In addition, verify that each beam has an accurate and up-to-date maximum load capacity label. If the label is old or missing, you may need the help of a qualified racking engineer to calculate and determine the beams’ current load capacity.
The beam connectors are the interface between the uprights and the beams. There is an array of connector styles available, both generic and proprietary. Remember that used pallet racks are more likely to feature less well-known connector types, for which spare parts and compatible accessories are more difficult to find.
Regardless of the connector type your racks possess, start by inspecting the holes and mounting points for cracks, bends, and deformation. If your connectors use safety pins, verify that none are missing or damaged.
If your beams are bolted onto your uprights instead of using a clipping or hooking system, check for missing or damaged bolts as well.
Straightness and plumbness
Plumbness and straightness are terms used to refer to how straight and vertical your uprights are. It is essential to ensure that your uprights are as close to perfectly straight and plumb as possible to ensure optimal load distribution.
The plumbness of your racking system refers to the vertical angle of the uprights. In theory, a perfectly plumb upright should be perpendicular with the ground, while an out-of-plumb upright is leaning in a specific direction.
Your uprights should have an out-of-plumb ratio of no more than 0.5” per 10 feet to be considered acceptable for use. If the ratio is over that limit, your racks are leaning too much and risk falling over.
Straightness refers to the actual shape of your uprights. A straight-edge upright should show no signs of bowing or bending along its length. If it does, it is considered out-of-straight. Verify that your uprights have an out-of-straight ratio of no more than 0.05” per 12” of height.
Maintain Warehouse Safety With Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc.
If you need qualified personnel to help you inspect and service your facility’s pallet racking systems, contact a member of our team at Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. for assistance.
We offer new and used racking, shelving, containers, and other equipment for all your warehousing and distribution needs. We also provide consulting services, from information and quotes to planning complete facilities – our team is with you every step of the way.