Pallet racks are an essential part of any warehouse or distribution center. They provide a safe and efficient way to store and retrieve goods and help improve productivity by allowing easy access to inventory. However, pallet racks can also be dangerous if they are not properly maintained.
Like any other industrial equipment, pallet racks require regular maintenance and inspection to ensure they are in good working condition. Improperly maintaining your racks can lead to several problems, including potentially fatal accidents.
By conducting regular inspections, you can identify potential problems and take steps to correct them, reducing the risk of damage to persons or property.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Guidance
OSHA standards do not specifically outline pallet racking safety; however, two OSHA rules are consistently applied regarding inspection and maintenance.
OSHA regulations, Subpart N (Material Handling Storage), paragraph 1910.176(b), states that “materials shall not create a hazard.” This is quite broad and is generally not used by OSHA to cite warehouse operators.
However, the “general duty clause” of the OSH Act of 1970 is used in conjunction with ANSI MH16.1 – Specification for the Design, Testing, and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks to cite owners for improperly maintaining or securing their pallet rack systems.
ANSI MH16.1 contains these guidelines for the proper securing of pallet rack systems:
Insert Anchor Bolts
The ANSI document’s first recommendation is to secure your pallet racks by inserting anchor bolts into the floor through the base plate.
The other recommendation made by ANSI is to secure your pallet racks. If your pallet racking is situated next to a wall, you must attach the rack to the wall. If your racks are positioned back-to-back or in clusters, secure the racks to each other.
Businesses that use pallet racks are subject to safety regulations and industry standards to protect workers and prevent accidents. Aside from OSHA, the ANSI requires each rack system owner to maintain their pallet racking systems for employee safety. This includes regular maintenance and repair of pallet racks and racking systems.
Each warehouse’s safety is dictated by several variables, including forklift use, storage rack design and types of racks used, and the likelihood of seismic activity near the warehouse.
Pallet rack inspections are not legally required, but they help you adhere to legal regulations. Inspections can be done either internally or by hiring a professional rack inspector.
If you do not want to do inspections internally, outside inspectors will help ensure that all safety standards are met and provide a detailed report on the condition of your pallet racks.
How to Check Your Pallet Racks
Regular pallet rack inspections can help shield warehouse operators from liability and ensure smooth and safe warehouse operations.
When performing a pallet rack inspection, it is essential to check the following:
Rust or Corrosion
Rust and corrosion can weaken the structural integrity of warehouse pallet racking systems. This can typically be detected by a thorough visual inspection of the systems.
Structural damage to anchors, columns, or beams can lead to a pallet rack’s collapse, potentially resulting in injury or death for warehouse workers and the destruction of goods. Usually, this damage can be identified quite easily with a visual inspection for signs of damage. If you see a scrape in the paint of a rack, it can indicate that a forklift accident has occurred, and the rack may have suffered structural damage.
The load beams of pallet rack storage systems are designed to hold a specific weight. Many newer systems feature load capacity labels to indicate the maximum load, but older models do not usually feature these labels. If the structure’s load limits are surpassed, the beams can weaken and eventually break, leading to a collapse.
In normal circumstances, load beams will give a bit under the weight of a load, referred to as “beam deflection.” The beam should return to its normal state if the load is removed. If the beam is still bent after removing the load, then the load likely had too much weight and the beam is now weakened.
If the beam deflects more than 1/180th of the total length of the beam while loaded, it has been structurally compromised.
You should ensure all pallet racks are level during a rack system inspection. This is particularly important if your warehouse has recently undergone reconfiguration or if you have older pallet racking systems. Crooked racks are at high risk for collapse or fall, particularly in the event of a forklift collision.
Uprights are a vital component of pallet racking and must be inspected regularly. During the inspection, you should evaluate the uprights’ external condition: if the components are dented, scraped, rusted, or otherwise compromised, the rack is at a high risk of eventual collapse.
Load Beam State
You should evaluate the condition of the load beam during a pallet rack inspection. Physical damage to the load beam indicates weakened capacity: check for dents, twists, and scrapes, and if a beam has any of these indicators, inspect its structural integrity for damage.
You should also inspect the connections between the load beam and the uprights, including safety clips and bolts. If any structural components of the rack are missing or damaged, the rack is at a high risk of collapse.
You should also thoroughly examine the pallet racking’s base plates. Each base plate should have an anchor, and the anchor should be safely rooted. You should also perform a visual inspection to ensure the base plate and the anchor have no structural damage.
Frequency of Inspections
Since pallet racks are subject to constant use, they are susceptible to wear and tear. To ensure a safe and efficient warehouse operation, it is important to perform regular inspections of your pallet racking.
At a minimum, you should inspect these systems once a month. If your warehouse has high traffic, extreme temperatures, narrow isles, or uses an older system, check more frequently to ensure safety. You should always inspect your pallet racking under any of the following circumstances:
After a New Installation or Reconfiguration
You should always inspect your pallet racks after a new installation or reconfiguration. This will ensure proper installation and that all racks align with the rack supplier’s applicable building codes or specifications. You should also check for any hazards after installation, such as sharp edges, exposed or poorly installed bolts, or loose components.
After a Collision
Collisions and accidents in a warehouse setting are relatively common and do not necessarily indicate structural rack damage. However, any time a machine such as a forklift impacts the pallet rack, it is essential to perform a thorough structural evaluation to ensure it is safe for continued use. You should also inspect if a pallet is unusually placed on the rack.
After an Earthquake
If an earthquake occurs in your vicinity, you should thoroughly inspect all pallet racking systems to ensure structural integrity and correct placement.
During Yearly Safety Inspections and Evaluations
Aside from your regular pallet rack inspections, you should perform a more thorough evaluation during your warehouse’s yearly safety inspection. This is a good time to thoroughly evaluate each rack’s structural integrity and replace damaged components or racks.
Why Do I Need a Pallet Rack Inspection?
Pallet rack inspections are expected by law in many locales, and while the inspection is not codified, they are necessary to avoid a pallet rack collapse or fall. Being near a pallet rack collapsing or falling is one of the most hazardous situations in a warehouse, and warehouse employees can be severely injured or killed.
Even if no employee is near the fall, any merchandise on the rack can be damaged or destroyed.
You’ll have to completely replace the pallet rack system, and you may be legally liable for damages to goods or workers if the collapse resulted from negligence.
Regular pallet rack inspections can prevent these outcomes and potentially save you money while protecting your employees’ lives and well-being.
Am I Legally Required to Perform Pallet Rack Inspections?
OSHA has cited warehouses that have not performed necessary due diligence and inspection for violating the “general duty clause” of the OSHA Act of 1970; other than that; there is no requirement for these inspections.
Despite the legal ambiguity, performing regular inspections can limit your liability in the case of an accident and protect your warehouse and its workers, regardless of your location.
Where Can I Purchase Pallet Racks?
Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. offers top-of-the-line pallet rack systems and components at an extremely competitive rate. We also have used equipment that has been inspected if you are on a tight budget or expanding your warehouse facility.
Contact a project manager at (800) 589-7225 to discuss your warehouse needs and learn how we can help you design and install your warehouse equipment to ensure your employee’s safety and improve workflows.