There are approximately two billion pallets in use each year in the United States, and many of them are stored using pallet racking systems. These racks can improve a warehouse’s safety and organization if properly installed and maintained. However, poorly maintained or improperly installed racks can pose a significant risk to warehouse employees.
According to a study by Penn State University, 30,493 people were admitted to a hospital due to pallet-related injuries from 2014 through 2018. These injuries can be caused by several events, such as a forklift collision, improper loading, or inconsistent inspections.
Learn how to prevent a pallet rack collapse in your warehouse to protect your staff from injury and avoid damaging your inventory.
Preventing Forklift Collisions
One of the most common causes of a pallet rack collapse is a collision with a forklift. Repeated forklift collisions can weaken the pallet racks’ structural integrity, leading to an eventual collapse.
Poorly anchored racks and those stacked high or with heavy loads are also vulnerable to collapse due to forklift accidents. Some tips to prevent forklift collisions in your warehouse include:
Provide Ample Access to Aisle Space
The efficient use of space is a primary concern in any warehouse setting; however, forklift access aisles are not the place to cut corners. Generally, warehouses determine their access aisle width based on the forklift manufacturer’s specifications for minimum aisle width according to the machine’s turning circle.
Often, these minimum specifications provide minimal room for error, particularly for new or inexperienced forklift drivers.
Another mistake many warehouses make when determining access aisle width is failing to account for pallet overhang. Most pallet racks are designed to facilitate several inches of pallet overhang on each side. If this is not taken into account, the aisle may not be wide enough to navigate the forklift safely.
Install Rack Protection Devices
One way to protect racks from collapsing due to a forklift collision is to install rack protection devices. These add-ons are usually inexpensive and can save you from costly rack repairs.
If you have had collisions in the past, note points of impact and reinforce them. Typically, the most vulnerable parts of a racking system are the end frames and corner columns.
Our low-profile rack guards are made from welded steel and are available in various size configurations. These rack guards can help protect your racks in a collision.
Another common cause of collisions between forklifts and racks is aisle clutter. If an access aisle is compromised by loose pallets or trash, the driver may need to swerve, causing a collision.
Preventing clutter is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways of avoiding a forklift accident. To reduce trash accumulation, provide ample trash receptacles in easy-to-access areas that are out of the way of forklift operation.
Properly Train Operators
Any employee operating a forklift must be adequately trained and OSHA certified. OSHA offers a range of forklift certification options, including fully-online courses.
Enforce a Speed Limit for Forklifts
To prevent careless driving, it is vital to implement and enforce forklift speed limits. In general, forklifts should never exceed eight miles per hour.
This limit should drop to around three miles per hour in areas with pedestrians. By enforcing these limits, you can keep your employees and property safe while complying with OSHA standards.
Preventing Warehouse Rack Collapses
Pallet racks can collapse for various reasons besides a forklift collision. Typically, due to improper installation, using the wrong type of racking, failing to ensure a balanced load, or failing to inspect the racks regularly.
Choose the Correct Pallet Racking System
Preventing a pallet rack collapse begins with choosing the correct type of rack for your loads. Pallet racks are available with a wide range of load-bearing capacities, and selecting a rack with insufficient capacity can cause a collapse. Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.’s galvanized pallet racks are one option for facilities looking for a heavy-duty, versatile pallet rack.
If your facility is planning to install used racking, you must confirm the loading specifications of the rack before use. Double-check with the manufacturer to ensure the racks can hold the loads you need.
Finally, ensure that all racking systems are correctly installed. The racking experts at Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. can install your racks for you, ensuring a proper and OSHA-compliant setup.
Provide Regular Pallet Rack Inspections
Another crucial part of preventing pallet rack collapse is providing regular, accurate pallet rack inspections for each rack. OSHA provides no specific guidelines on the frequency of pallet rack inspections. This is because each warehouse is different and requires inspections at varying intervals.
There are a few variables to consider to determine how often you should inspect your pallet racks. First, you should consider the level of traffic in your facility. If racks are exposed to forklifts, you will need to perform inspections more often to check for dents and damage. Similarly, warehouses with tight aisles will require more frequent rack inspections.
Also, consider the items you store. Heavy or irregular loads stress racking systems, and facilities storing these types of goods must inspect their racks more regularly than facilities storing lightweight inventory.
A good baseline is a yearly inspection by a third-party health and safety executive (HSE). However, to be proactive against pallet collapses, you should also perform regular internal inspections to complement your yearly third-party audit.
How frequently you perform these internal rack inspections will vary depending on the characteristics of your warehouse. If your warehouse setup poses a high risk for pallet collapse, monthly internal audits can help you catch issues before they deteriorate. For warehouses with a reduced risk of pallet collapse, performing internal pallet rack inspections twice per year may be sufficient.
Ensure Proper Rack Loading
One of the leading causes of pallet rack collapse is improper loading. Pallet rack collapses can occur even if you stay under the rack’s beam capacity maximum since racks can only support their maximum load if it is evenly loaded.
To prevent uneven loading, you should ensure pallets are placed symmetrically on racks and check for the center of balance of each pallet. Taking the extra time to ensure the rack is properly balanced can save your operation from a costly collapse.
How to Perform a Pallet Rack Inspection
Performing internal pallet rack inspections is integral to regular rack maintenance and preventing pallet rack collapses. To thoroughly inspect a pallet rack, you should check each of the following factors:
Check Racks are Level
If a rack is not level, a collision is significantly more likely to cause a collapse. This is a prevalent issue in outdoor racking systems or warehouses with poor flooring. Red flags for unlevel racks include crooked racks, vertical leaning, and rows out of alignment.
Check for Corrosion and Rust
Rust and corrosion can weaken the structural integrity of the rack. The rack can be compromised if there is visible rusting and may no longer support its factory-stated weight capacity. Scratches in the paint or coating can indicate that the rack was involved in a forklift collision and needs further inspection.
Check for Signs of Overloading
You should also check if the pallet rack’s beams are showing signs of overloading, like bending. Beams should not bow too much: more than 1⁄180th deflection of the total beam length is unacceptable. Check for signs of wear in fastening devices as well. If these components are damaged, it may be because of rack overloading.
Replace damaged rack load beams, as weakened load beams can lead to a collapse under load. All load beams should be securely attached to the rack uprights.
Document and Record Each Inspection
As critical as the pallet rack inspection is, documenting each inspection’s results is just as important. This can help you detect underlying trends and prevent a collapse before it happens. Thorough documentation of your pallet racking inspections can also help protect you legally if an accident occurs.
Pallet Racks and Rack Installation with Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc.
Pallet rack collapses can be dangerous, potentially injuring employees and visitors and destroying valuable inventory. As a result, preventing pallet rack collapses should be a priority for any warehouse manager.
Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. provides high-quality racking systems that can withstand the rigors of a warehouse setting. Our trained and insured installation crews can even install your racks for you to ensure a safe and efficient setup.
If you are concerned about pallet rack collapses in your warehouse, Shelving + Rack Supply, Inc. experts can help you take the measures necessary to protect your employees and property. Call us today at (800) 589-7225 and see how we can help your business.