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.
However, as we’ll see businesses can drastically increase safety in their warehouses by preemptively addressing these five common but critical pallet rack safety hazards.
But first, a quick look at two important storage rack regulations as deemed by OSHA:
- 1910.176(b), which discusses properly securing stored items to prevent falling or collapse.
- 1910.159, which specifies an 18-in clearance of fire sprinklers from the height of the storage unit.
Additionally, several other racking issues are covered in detail by the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, and specifically those in the ANSI/RMI MH16.1 – Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.
Five of the top pallet rack safety hazards described there in include:
Physical damage to the pallet rack
Often this damage occurs from lift truck 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.
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.
Loose Floor Fittings
OSHA is clear that rack columns are bottom-anchored to the floor with column base plates secured with anchor bolts.
Suitability of forklift truck
Your material handling equipment and pallet jacks should be sized to meet your needs.
Weight of stored goods versus capacity of racking system
To prevent dangerously overloaded racks, ANSI/RMI MH16.1 suggests posting the maximum permissible unit load, average unit load, and maximum total load per bay.
In the end, whether your racks are damaged, overloaded, improperly anchored or misaligned, they’re a serious safety hazard that can result in serious injury. OSHA recommends warehouse managers develop a thorough maintenance and inspection program. Be liberal with safety audits that include everything from pallet rack signage all the way up your material handling equipment.