5 Tips to Ensure Pallet Rack Safety
When your employees are moving your products by forklift, safety is essential. The safety of your employees, product and warehouse storage are critical to the smooth functioning of your business. Injuries and damage are costly in terms of recovery, repairs, fines and time.
In a warehouse, dockyard or other job site, many factors can compromise safety. This includes overloaded racks, damaged shelves and other compromised product storage areas. When items aren’t properly secured on appropriate racks, accidents can happen at any job site. To prevent injury, product damage and hefty fines, every warehouse safety plan should follow OSHA pallet rack safety regulations. First, let’s review the basics of pallet rack safety. Then, we’ll consider 5 tips to ensure your warehouse pallet racking remains secure.
PALLET RACK SAFETY: THE BASICS
There’s more to pallet rack safety than just putting up a bunch of sturdy racks and shelving. These factors should be considered when choosing the racking for your work site:
Get the right pallet racks for your job site. Pallet racking safety guidelines call for racks that are designed for the type of items in your warehouse. For example, do you have mostly small, light items or large, heavy ones? Do you store items of all shapes and sizes? Does your warehouse have limited space so that you need tall racks and shelving? Choosing warehouse pallet racking that fits your unique storage needs will enhance safety for all.
Install your pallet racks with safety in mind. Your rack may have plenty of room to safely hold a few pallets. But will anything interfere with product placement or removal? Avoid placing racking directly under sprinkler systems, lights, and other ceiling hazards that may be impacted when a heavily laden pallet is added or removed. If this can not be avoided, place pallet racking safety signs where they can be easily seen by forklift drivers. Forklift accidents are often caused when drivers focus too much on the rack and not enough on surrounding structures. With a warehouse safety plan in place, you’ll always know where the ceiling hazards are.
Know your rack’s top load capacity. An overloaded rack is an unsafe rack, and should be avoided at all costs. Always err on the side of caution with maximum loads. OSHA and ANSI pallet rack safety regulations recommend clearly posting maximum load limits on each pallet rack. If you’re not sure how much a rack can hold, don’t put your cargo on the rack until you find out. If you have room on other racks, place items there rather than exceeding a rack’s weight limit. Do this even if you have to put like items in different areas. Just be sure that people know where to find them.
Use caution when placing and removing loads. Many forklift accidents occur when lifting and lowering loads. Careless cargo handling also can add to the daily wear & tear on your racks. This is where forklift training can help. It teaches many vital skills, including:
- The correct way to lift and lower loads
- The signs of an unbalanced load
- The correct way to position loads on the forks
- Hazards to watch out for when placing or removing product
Perform regular rack maintenance. Just like your forklift, racks require routine safety checks. In fact, scheduled rack maintenance is a key part of any pallet rack safety program. Some things to look for include missing hardware (screws, bolts, etc.), rust, and other missing parts. If you spot damage that could compromise safety, the rack should be taken out of service until repaired or replaced. Always place a pallet racking safety sign on the damaged rack until it is repaired.
Report any structural damage. Structural pallet rack damage can compromise the safety, even if it’s minor. If your rack has a dinged support post or some other visible damage, report it right away.
Keep in mind that not all rack safety issues from structural damage or accidents will shut down your warehouse operations. Pallet rack safety clips can help stabilize any rack that becomes dislodged. Buy some today and increase your rack safety quotient!
TIP #1 – PALLET RACK SAFETY REGULATIONS AND TRAINING
Pallet rack safety training is essential in a warehouse work setting. Beyond providing a list of Do’s and Don’ts that employees may shrug at as just a hassle, good training ensures they also understand the reasons behind the pallet rack safety regulations and take ownership of site safety. Once your company has an OSHA–approved forklift training program in place, you’re better equipped to handle:
- Rack safety
- Warehouse safety
- Injury/accident avoidance
- Forklift safety
- And much more
TIP # 2 – WAREHOUSE LAYOUT FOR SAFETY AND EFFICIENCY
A well-organized warehouse improves the efficiency and rack safety of your operation. While it may be tempting to create small aisles in order to maximize your storage space, narrow aisles are more difficult to navigate safely. Narrow aisles lead to forklift collisions, employee injury and damaged racks and pallets, and sometimes product loss.
Different warehouses have different layout needs, depending upon the equipment used, the pallet racks and the cargo stored. Well-lit aisles of 12 to 14 feet enable safe forklift and cargo handling. Keep the aisles free from discarded packaging and other potential hazards. Revisit your warehouse pallet racking design yearly as new products are stored, and old products are phased out. It’s critical that the pallets you use are designed to accommodate the weight and size of the items it bears.
TIP #3 – PALLET RACKING SAFETY AUDITS
OSHA pallet rack safety regulations require employers to inspect storage rack systems on a regular basis. The inspections should be performed by a person with knowledge of storage rack design and installation. Some companies train a worker to handle this job. Others hire a pallet rack safety inspection firm. Either way, the racking should be inspected at least once a year.
When doing a pallet racking safety audit, focus on four key areas:
- Plumb and straight. The maximum vertical out-of-plumb ratio for a loaded rack is “rack height in inches divided by 240.” Measure rack height from the centerline of the column upright at the floor to the centerline of the column upright at the top of the shelf.
- Visible rust or corrosion. Rust can be a sign of weakened metal. Scraped paint may mean the rack suffered a collision. When this occurs, check for plumbness and straightness of the upright columns.
- Load capacity. Post the frame capacity chart at the end of each aisle. If you modify the racking, change the placards to display the new racking specs.
- Sound Support: Beams, upright columns and foot plate/anchors can be frequently damaged. Deformed or cracked beams should be replaced. Columns with rips or tears beyond the manufacturer’s limits should be repaired or replaced. Footplates twisted more than 6” need to be repaired. Also look for loose, sheered, or missing anchors.
TIP # 4 – PALLET RACK SAFETY BARRIERS
Many warehouses use pallet rack safety barriers as a safety measure. There are two basic types: panel guards and safety netting. Panel guards provide a barrier between warehouse stock and job site hazards. They are designed to protect inventory and prevent injury to workers.
Safety netting systems protect racked items from falling and injuring workers below. These pallet rack safety barriers attach directly to the racking using zip ties and brackets. They are often used on the upper level aisles in retail stores to protect customers from bad racking or loose items. They are also used under pallet flow lanes in pick modules, and under carton flow systems to catch boxes.
TIP # 5 – ALLOW ANONYMOUS REPORTING
Pallet racking safety guidelines call for immediate reporting of any damage, to ensure that compromised racks and supports cannot pose an ongoing hazard to site safety. Prompt reporting is one of a forklift driver’s many duties. However, forklift drivers and other warehouse workers are reluctant to report collisions or other mishaps because they don’t want to risk their jobs.
Provide a drop box where warehouse workers can report any damage observed without risk of punishment. It is more important to learn about and correct any rack safety issues promptly, than to be able to assign blame.
ENSURE PALLET RACK SAFETY THROUGHOUT YOUR ORGANIZATION
From improving pallet rack safety through properly securing forklift loads and becoming a better forklift driver, your entire operation will be safer and more productive with training from ForkliftCertification.com. Our OSHA-compliant courses will help every member of your team to achieve greater safety and efficiency. We have three training packages to choose from, so you’ll enjoy customized content for your role. To sign up now, please call our forklift training specialists at (888) 278-8896. Or, check out the Forklift Certification contact page. We look forward to assisting with your pallet rack safety program ASAP.