Leading Causes of Unsafe Pallet Rack Systems

When properly inspected and maintained, pallet racks are invaluable additions to any warehousing facility, allowing you to store palletized inventory for efficient retrieval and distribution. However, unsafe pallet racks are a liability.

You should always prioritize warehouse safety — the consequences of failing to do so can place your employees at risk of injury and expose you to liability lawsuits if an accident occurs. A safer warehouse increases employee productivity and reduces management stress.

To protect your warehouse employees and inventory, it is critical to understand the causes of unsafe pallet racking.

Leading Causes of Rack Damage

Periodic pallet racking inspections are essential to safe warehouse storage. Failure to conduct these inspections regularly, to document damage or signs of wear, and to repair or replace damaged components, can contribute to unsafe racking systems. Refer to OSHA’s general requirements and implement safety practices to ensure your pallet racks are functional and safe to use.

Walk through your facility, thoroughly inspecting your storage system for rack issues like missing components, deficiencies, or damage. Take photographs and record your findings so you can address them as quickly as possible.

Forklift Collision

One of the leading causes of pallet rack failure is collisions with forklifts or lift trucks. When impact damage occurs, it compromises the structural integrity of the system, reducing its load capacity. The rack damage doesn’t have to be immediately obvious — it can be subtle and cumulative. Consult the OSHA regulations on powered industrial trucks for additional guidance.

Although there are various ways you can reduce the risk of a forklift colliding with a pallet rack in the first place, prevention isn’t always possible. When you can’t prevent impact, you should strive to minimize the damage inflicted.

Installing column protectors, reinforcing the uprights, absorbs the shock of a forklift impact. At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. our standard and large column protectors from Diversified Plastics Inc feature nylon fasteners that ensure the protectors remain attached and intact even after a collision, for long-lasting protection.

Improper Education

Your employees should be educated in proper health and safety guidelines. If you have a high rate of employee turnover, ensure there is a continuous training system in place, and conduct refresher courses throughout the year for all warehouse employees. Forklift drivers should understand how to properly load and unload pallet racks, in addition to proper rack safety, and should be properly certified.

Anchor Damage

The primary way forklifts damage pallet racks is by colliding with the upright columns — the vertical support structure. However, forklift trucks and other vehicles, such as pallet jacks, can damage the main anchor points. The foot plates are flared bases designed to stabilize the pallet rack, distributing the weight uniformly. The foot plates also allow you to fasten the rack to the concrete floor. If these bolts or foot plates are damaged, the system is at risk of becoming dangerously unstable.

Unbalanced Pallets

If the pallet is unbalanced or damaged, it can lead to uneven weight distribution or damage other pallets on the rack. To avoid this, always ensure that pallets are loaded correctly. If a pallet is damaged, replace it as soon as possible. You can dispose of broken pallet racks in various ways, from selling them to a recycling company or contacting the supplier for pallet retrieval.

Failure to Use Proper Decking

Pallet racks are not interchangeable with shelving units. The rack beams are designed to support palletized inventory. If you want to use pallet racks as substitute shelving units, you need to install decking. This allows the rack beams to support smaller inventory items, such as cardboard boxes and cartons.

Using a rack without decking can cause small items to fall between the beams, potentially causing injury or product damage. There are different types of decking to choose from. Wire decks are among the most versatile. By using a wire mesh, wire decks promote air circulation, light penetration for improved visibility, and increase the ability of overhead sprinkler systems to extinguish nascent fires.

Jaken wire decks from Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. are crafted from 5-gauge steel with 2”x 4”openings to maintain optimal visibility and airflow, while still providing adequate load bearing support and weight distribution. To prolong the life of your decking, ensure the load sits atop the wire-deck support channels and not the wire mesh.

Poor Lighting

Inadequate overhead lighting in a warehouse can exacerbate a number of safety problems. It can cause the order picker or forklift driver to misjudge distance, fail to see material handling equipment and personnel, and incorrectly identify inventory.

Exceeding the Load Capacity

Every pallet rack has a load capacity — a limit to the weight it can support. If you don’t know the load capacities of your pallet racks, consult the Load Application and Rack Configuration (LARC) drawings. Warehouse managers must have copies of LARC drawings, according to OSHA regulations. It’s also important to properly and clearly label each warehouse rack.

Narrow Aisle Widths

If the aisles between racking systems are too wide, you waste valuable floor space. If the aisles are too narrow, forklift drivers may have less space to safely maneuver. As a result, you need to find the perfect balance between storage density and clearance. In storage systems where forklift traffic is high, you can often consult the forklift manufacturer to find aisle calculations appropriate to the model you’re using.

Changing the Rack Configuration

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the configuration of the storage rack to suit changing inventory requirements. If you need to change the configuration of a storage rack, consult a qualified engineer, the manufacturer, or the supplier. Reconfiguring or modifying a system without consulting an expert may cause it to become unsafe, no longer supporting its maximum design load.

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. we have qualified and licensed installers that can help you redesign the layout of your warehouse storage system using our MyModel-R Configurator software.

Failure to Repair Damaged Racks

If you identify excessive deflection, cracks, or deformation in the upright columns, beams, beam connectors, or bracing, you should repair or replace these components as soon as possible. Whether caused by improper loading or impact, damaged components can weaken the structural integrity of the rack, leading to collapse.

Safe Racking is Critical

At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we understand the importance of ensuring that your racking and shelving systems remain safe and functional. By maintaining a safety-conscious approach to racking systems, you can significantly reduce the risk of rack failure in your warehouse.

Conduct regular inspections, follow OSHA and manufacturer guidelines, and repair or replace damaged rack components when necessary.