Used pallet racks can be an economical storage option for your warehouse, especially if you’re on a budget. However, whether used or new, you need to know how to identify and address damaged pallet-racking systems. This is a critical part of warehouse safety, protecting both your employees and your inventory from harm.
Evaluating Used Pallet Racks
When searching for used pallet racks, you need to conduct an initial inspection. The manufacturer or reseller inspects the rack to ensure it complies with OSHA guidelines. However, that doesn’t guarantee that the rack is in perfect condition or will meet your storage needs.
As many used pallet racks show some signs of wear or minor damage, your priority should be conducting regular inspections of your used pallet racks to determine whether they’ve sustained damage and, if so, whether it’s severe enough to warrant rack repair or replacement.
To properly evaluate the storage rack, you can start by examining the uprights for deflection. Deflection is the extent to which the upright column has begun to bow. This can either be caused by a load that exceeds the weight capacity of the pallet rack or impact damage to the upright columns. To determine the acceptable level of deflection, you can apply a column deflection formula.
Inspect the frontal columns for signs of damage or corrosion. If there is deflection, does it exceed ⅛ of an inch over 40”? As your inspection progresses from the frontal columns to the rear, the extent of acceptable deflection increases to ¼ of an inch over 40”.
Many pallet racks use horizontal and diagonal beams for additional structural support, known as a bracing system. Bracing can experience the most deflection of the three components without reducing pallet rack safety — ⅜ of an inch over 40”.
A pallet rack comprises several common components, and each component can deform or experience damage. These components are:
Uprights are columns or posts that provide the vertical support structure, acting as the frame.
Beams attach to the uprights and provide horizontal support for palletized inventory.
Bracing consists of horizontal and diagonal support beams that reinforce the structure.
Foot plates spread the load on the floor and provide critical anchor points, ensuring that the rack remains stable.
Pallet-rack beams are not designed to support non-palletized inventory items, such as cardboard boxes or cartons. These items can fall between beams, causing injury or product damage, so installing decking is necessary. Decks are supported by the rack beams and substitute for shelving.
If the upright columns appear to be twisted, this is a severe form of damage that you need to address as soon as possible. If you notice that the foot plates are detached, they must be immediately repaired or replaced.
Damaged or Loose Anchoring
Bolts attach the foot plates of the pallet rack to the concrete floor of your warehouse. This provides essential anchoring — stabilizing the pallet rack against horizontal shear forces, accidental impact, and other stresses.
Horizontal Beam Deflection
The beams attach the upright columns, providing the horizontal support structure. When you place a load on the pallet rack beams, they experience minor deflection. However, if this deflection exceeds a specific threshold, it becomes dangerous and should be evaluated by an engineer specializing in racking systems. The acceptable deflection threshold is determined according to the length of the beam in inches divided by 180.
Damaged Beam Connectors
As bolts attach the foot plates to the floor, beam connectors are mechanical fasteners that attach the horizontal beams to the vertical uprights. These connectors are reinforced using safety pins, ensuring they won’t become detached during loading or unloading.
The verticality of the upright columns, also known as plumb, has an acceptable threshold of deviation of approximately ½ of an inch over 10”. If the uprights are out-of-plumb, that means they’re not perpendicular or straight.
How to Prevent Damage
One of the most common causes of damage to pallet racks is collision with material-handling equipment, such as forklift trucks. When a forklift collides with the upright frames of a pallet rack, it can cause permanent deformation, compromising the system’s structural integrity.
Depending on the pallet rack and the inventory it’s supporting, damage to the rack uprights can cause system collapse. If a pallet rack collapses, it can cause serious injury or death to warehouse workers. It can also destroy merchandise, costing thousands or even millions of dollars.
Education and Training
Forklift drivers should be properly trained to use forklifts and picking equipment and appropriately certified in their operation. Post speed limits and ensure that every employee follows health and safety guidelines. Your staff should never load merchandise that exceeds the weight capacity of your warehouse’s storage systems. If you’re unsure of the load capacity of a racking system, consult the manufacturer.
Depending on the racking system and the storage density you need, the space between aisles may vary considerably. The aisle width between racking systems must accommodate forklift drivers. Determine the clearance needed for forklifts to complete the turning radius safely. If the aisles between pallet racks are too narrow, the risk of collision increases.
Load Pallets Correctly
When a worker places a load on a pallet rack, the beams deflect in response to the weight. This is not a cause for alarm. However, when a worker places a load on the rack in which the weight is not evenly distributed, this can cause pallets to move toward each other under the force of gravity. During picking/retrieval, this can cause pallets to potentially fall from their bays, injuring workers or damaging merchandise.
Install Column Protectors
In addition to educating your workers, drivers and ensuring adequate aisle space, there are two methods of protecting pallet racks: guard rails and column protectors. Column protectors act as shields, absorbing impact from forklifts.
Watch for Corrosion
Most pallet racks are composed of carbon or alloy steel. When exposed to moisture, the surface can begin to oxidize. Rust is a minor nuisance that affects cosmetic appeal but not function.
However, left untreated, it can significantly weaken a steel structure. There are a variety of ways in which you can protect your pallet racks against corrosion, including ensuring that the steel has a powder-coated, epoxy, or galvanized finish.
Column protectors shield the uprights, but you can also incorporate systems to protect employees from falling pallets. Aisle shields or netting can ensure that pallets, boxes, cartons, and other inventory do not fall during retrieval.
Install Adequate lighting
Poor lighting can be costly and hazardous in warehousing and industrial settings. When aisles are poorly illuminated, workers are more likely to incorrectly identify pallets or fail to read labels. Every time a worker unloads a pallet and has to replace it, the probability of product damage increases. In high-traffic environments, poor lighting can also increase the risk of forklift-related injuries to workers operating on foot.
Furthermore, improving the lighting in your warehouse allows you to inspect pallet-racking systems for damage and signs of wear more effectively.
Display Load Capacity Information
Every pallet-racking system, including heavy-duty models, has a load capacity you should not exceed. Each bay of your pallet rack should have the load capacity clearly labeled for workers to read. If you don’t know the load capacities of a used pallet rack, and the supplier can’t shed light on this, you’ll need to consult an engineer who can evaluate the rack for you and provide this information.
Related to load capacity is the weight limit of the pallet rack. When you order a used pallet rack, its weight capacity should exceed the maximum weight of the inventory that you intend to store. As a result, you should first calculate the weight of your inventory, including the heaviest individual load.
Buy Industry-Safe Used Pallet Racking
When your inspection is complete, you’ll need to log the information and prioritize repair and replacement according to risk. Severe deflection or deformation is a high priority because of the increased risk of system collapse.
At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we understand how critical it is to have a safe warehouse environment. We inspect all used pallet racking and shelving systems to ensure that they meet industry safety standards. Call us at (800) 589-7225, and we can help you establish inspection guidelines and implement industry best practices to ensure that your racking systems remain safe and functional for years.