How to Prevent Pallet Rack Damage
Forklifts play a key role in warehouses throughout the U.S. But their counterparts – pallet racks – are just as important. Forklifts provide an efficient way to move items from point A to point B. Pallet racks provide sturdy inventory storage until the products get shipped. Like any equipment, pallet racking can suffer damage during the course of duty. Damaged pallet racking can cause many problems in a warehouse. These include:
- Safety problems for forklift drivers and other workers on the floor
- The cost of replacing damaged items due to pallet rack damage
- Disrupted workflow while damaged pallet racking is repaired or replaced
- Fines from OSHA for not keeping racks in a safe condition
Pallet racking is designed and built to be sturdy. But racks can be damaged in many ways. Run into by a forklift. Too much weight on the racks. Improper loading and unloading. Lack of maintenance. All these can cause racking to become unsafe, resulting in worker injuries and damaged stock.
When to Check for Pallet Rack Damage
Pallet rack damage can occur suddenly or gradually over time. Scheduled inspections can prevent rack damage from getting overlooked.
- Weekly walk-throughs. Look for minor dents and other slight damage due to forklift collisions or wear and tear. Correcting minor problems can prevent costly repairs later on.
- Yearly professional inspection. Trained racking inspectors do two things. First, they rate the overall condition of your racking. This includes problems like corrosion, overloading, row alignment, and floor condition and level. Then they point out any needed maintenance or repairs.
- After small accidents. Forklifts are bulky, heavy trucks. Even a minor accident at slow speed can cause serious damage to the racking. Beams can get bent of shape or knocked out of their secure fasteners. Small dents near the bottom can reduce load capacity at the top. Dents can threaten the structural integrity of an entire racking system.
How Risky is Damaged Warehouse Racking?
After an inspection, racking should be rated with one of three risk levels:
- Areas of damage are small enough to allow use of the racking without making repairs.
- The pallet rack damage needs remedial work, but not enough to require unloading of the rack right away. Once the rack is unloaded, it should not be reloaded until the repairs are complete. If the rack goes four weeks without unloading, it should be unloaded and repaired right away.
- The damage is severe enough to exceed safety standards. The rack should be unloaded and taken out of use until all repairs are made. Damaged uprights, bracing beams, and beam safety pins should be given extra attention.
Train your workers to know the difference between daily wear and tear and real pallet rack damage. This will help prevent small dangers from becoming big ones.
Preventing Damaged Pallet Racking
There are many ways to prevent damaged warehouse racking.
- Use enclosed racks and frames. Fully enclosed upright racks have more racking damage tolerance. This means they can absorb more damage than partly enclosed racks. Enclosed rack frames can also absorb greater truck impacts than open-back columns without causing serious damage.
- Load your racks properly. Racks should be clearly labeled with their load limits. Drivers should keep the load weight centered when placing pallets on the rack. Always place heavier loads on the lower rack levels. Rack uprights should be designed for the heaviest weights that will be stored. Use reinforced upright columns if needed.
- Maintain clutter-free aisles. Clutter makes it harder to handle forklifts in an already confined space. Pallets stacked in aisles and other obstructions can reduce the driver’s visibility and steering options. When drivers swerve to avoid clutter in the aisles, it often results in damaged warehouse racking.
- Widen your aisles. Narrow aisles lead to more forklift collisions. Aisles should be at least 12 to 14 feet wide, although this can vary based on the type of forklift. Consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe aisle widths.
- Post speed limits.Place speed limit signs where they can be seen. Enforce speed limits to keep drivers focused on safety.
- Have good lighting in rack aisles. Dimly lit rack aisles make it harder for forklift drivers to judge distance and clearance. The narrower the aisle, the more the need for good lighting.
- Protect the corners. Forklifts often collide with racking systems at the end of the row when drivers turn too sharply. This can cause damage to the diagonal and horizontal braces. Installing bollards, guard railings, or other protective systems will remind drivers to make wider turns to avoid the racking.
- Use pallet rack column protectors. These free-standing pallet rack protectors are mounted in front of pallet rack upright frames. They help limit the damage from forklift collisions.
- Allow anonymous reports of accidents. Forklift drivers often don’t report collisions because they don’t want to get in trouble. Place a dropbox where people can report rack collisions and other safety problems without fear of punishment. It’s better to know when the damage occurred than who did it.
- Paint the forks a different color on each truck. When each forklift has different color forks, it’s easy to tell which truck caused the damage. Brightly colored forks also make it easier for the driver to see them when handling a load at height.
- Help drivers see better. Install backup alarms, rear-view mirrors, and other safety devices to increase visibility for drivers.
- Match the pallet rack to the load. Make sure the pallet rack is rated for the load it will hold. When changing the items stored on a rack, compare the weight of the items with the beam and upright capacity of the rack.
Pallet Racking Damage Tolerance
Pallet rack columns are designed to be perfectly straight. Over time they can get out of plumb. This means the rack is straight but it leans. Racks can also get out of straight. This means they curve where they shouldn’t.
As long as the rack column doesn’t exceed a defined ratio for being out of plumb or straight, they are still safe to use. Once they go over the ratio, the racking damage tolerance becomes unsafe and the rack may collapse.
The out-of-plumb safety standard with a loaded rack is 1/240. This equals ½ inch over a height of 10 feet for front-to-back and side-to-side leaning. This is less than 0.24 degrees of tilt. Anything higher is considered out of plumb.
The same column racking damage tolerance is used to determine out of straight – ½ inch over 10 feet. This equals a curvature of 1/20th of an inch per foot. Using electronic levels will provide a more accurate measurement.
Pallet rack can get out of plumb or out of straight due to:
- Changes in beam height
- Type of beam connection used
- Bolts not fully tightened during installation
- Impacts with forklifts or pallets
- Overloading of beams and racks
When a pallet becomes out of plumb or out of straight, it must be unloaded and repaired so it conforms to the column vertical safety standard.
More Training = Less Damaged Warehouse Racking
Well-trained forklift drivers are less likely to cause damaged pallet racking. This requires operational and safety training. You can get both at forkliftcertification.com, the leader in fast, affordable online forklift training. Our courses can be completed in less than an hour. Workers can take them anywhere they have a reliable Internet hookup. They can print their certification card as soon as they pass the course. Keep your employees and your racks safe with OSHA-approved forklift training from forkliftcertification.com. Save time and money with our in-house forklift training and certification kit.