Warehouse Racking Safety

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by Rudi Nieuwoudt

Steel pallet racks are as critical to your warehouse operation as the employees that work within it. Unfortunately, these essential structures are often neglected after installation, creating potentially deadly occupational health and safety risks as well as costly property damage. Without comprehensive pallet racking inspections and self-assessments serious accidents from faulty or damaged racks are likely to occur.

Critical Pallet Rack Safety Hazards

1. Physical damage to the pallet rack

Often this damage occurs from forklift collisions. Sufficient clearance space and clear aisles are both great ways to prevent this kind of damage. Always encourage employees to promptly report all minor impacts or observable damage.

2. Misaligned Racking Safety Hazard

This can cause collapse or failure of your pallet racking system. During inspection, use the manufacturer’s instructions to check that racks are properly aligned, plum, and level.

3. Loose Floor Fittings

All rack columns are bottom-anchored to the floor with column base plates secured with anchor bolts.

4. Suitability of forklift truck

Your material handling equipment and pallet jacks should be sized to meet your needs.

5. Weight of stored goods versus capacity of racking system

To prevent dangerously overloaded racks, it is suggested that you post the maximum permissible unit load, average unit load, and maximum total load per bay.

User Responsibility

1.        The installation of the racking should be in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements.

2.        The use of the equipment should be according to the load notices provided by the Supplier.

3.        Regular inspections should be performed.

4.        Any damaged component should be taken out and repaired by suitably trained personnel.

5.        Personnel should be trained and competent in the use of material handling equipment such as forklifts.

6.        The user must ensure that the pallets are in good condition, are appropriate for the racking system provided, and loads are correctly stacked on pallets.

7.        No alterations shall be made without the approval of the manufacturer or supplier.

8.        End frame protectors should be installed for truck operated racking.

9.        The warehouse should be adequately lit to allow safe use of forklifts and the handling of pallets.

10       Unacceptable practices are :

10.1    To position a pallet against the rack upright or beam end connector.

10.2    To nudge one pallet with another in an attempt to move or re-align loads

10.3    Drag or slide pallets on or against support beams or structure.


Regular inspections of the racking is required using the 3 level hierarchical approach :

1.    Damage inspection

All warehouse personnel should be trained to identify damage immediately to ensure proper action is taken immediately to ensure the safety of all involved. Refer to Figure 1 for guidance.

2.    Weekly inspections from ground level

Warehouse supervisors should undertake regular documented inspections to identify and act upon any damage. This inspection should be carried out weekly, but the frequency may be varied according to particular operational conditions.

The following safety items should be included :

1.        Incorrect location of beam connectors

2.        Looseness of floor connections

3.        Dislodgement of accessories

4.        Spillage of goods

5.        Floor soiling

6.        Lift truck deficiencies

7.        Missing beam connector locks

8.        Missing row spacers

9.        Wrong type of pallets

10.      Incorrect location of the loads on the pallets

11.      Incorrect location of the position of the pallets on the racking/floor

12.      Incorrect load and information notices

13.      Overloading

14.      Instability of unit loads (load to be placed in one operation)

15.      Incorrect size of unit loads

3.        Annual/bi-annual inspection

The inspection should be carried out by a “technically competent” person and shall include the following :

1.        Vertical beam deflection when loaded

2.        Vertical beam deflection unloaded

3.        Lateral beam deformation when unloaded

4.        Beam end connector damage

5.        Beam end connector locks

6.        Uprights

7.        Bracing

8.        Base plate

9.        Rack protection

10.      Row spacer

11.      Height to depth ratios

12.      Ties to building (if applicable)