Its an anomaly in the system that few warehouse operators actually have aggressive in-house rack inspection programs in place. Forklift accidents, collisions, dropped or misplaced loads, and other incidents that result in rack damage may or may not get promptly reported. But even when a forklift hitting the front end corner of a rack gets reported a quick visual inspection alone will not confirm that load limits and structural integrity of the rack have not been affected by the accident. It's as if, while other hazards "stand out" to otherwise reasonable and prudent supervisors, there often is an absolute lapse in concern that a rack with over 100 tonnes of product can collapse in the tight space of a busy warehouse. It is especially important to have trained, competent and CONCERNED rack safety personnel when there is a high degree of activity in the warehouse, where there is the greatest risk of rack damage due to mechanical materials handling equipment. When a rack has been struck by a forklift, one of the first priorities should be to identify any unsafe components in order to reduce the dangers of collapse. Specific precautions and taking damaged segments out of service immediately may be the only prudent response to prevent possible risk of injury to personnel caused by continued use of damaged racking.
Rack safety is the employer's moral responsibility and comes with substantial legal liabilities (civil and criminal). But supervisors should also realize the potential hidden costs of a rack collapse like Replacing materials and damaged goods, Use of temporary storage facilities, General disruption, Workers' compensation, general liability and other insurance rate hikes following the loss, Legal expenses from defending actions resulting from an accident andPotential HSE fines relating to violations of statutory safety requirements
- 1. Racking design and Materials Handling Equipment
- Storage racking for products on pallets should be designed specifically for the size, shape and weight of the products being stored. The racking design should be compatible with the pallets and the materials handling equipment in use within the workplace. Aisle width should be matched to the turning circle of the forklift or other materials handling equipment used to put-away, replenish or pick.
- 2. Safe Working Loads
- Regular inspection of racking should be conducted both in-house and independent to check its integrity, identify maintenance requirements and to ensure racking is not overloaded. Do not exceed the Maximum Load Limit (MLL) for the unit load or the safe working total load per bay for the racking. There should be some means of ensuring that workers using the racking are aware of its MLL; e.g. having one or more signs in conspicuous locations, such as at the end of all aisles, which contain the following information:
- Racking manufacturer's name and trademark
- Safe working unit load
- Safe working unit load for each shelf beam level
- Safe working total unit load for each bay.
- 3. Altering the racking design or components
- Any alterations to the racking should be scrutinised by a competent person and should take into account the effects on the MLL. Operating procedures, signs and drawings should be amended accordingly. In a broad sense, a competent person is an individual who, by way of training and/or experience, is knowledgeable of applicable standards, is capable of identifying storage equipment hazards relating to the specific operation, is designated by the employer, and has authority to advise on appropriate actions. Physical alterations to uprights, bracings, beams or components, such as welding on additional cleats or bearers, should not be made. Replacement of uprights, bracings, beams, clips or other components should be with compatible parts. If not practicable, an engineering report should be obtained confirming the integrity and SWL of the racking with these alternative replacement parts.
- 4. Operating instructions
- Procedures need to be in place within the workplace to ensure that operations are conducted safely with regard to the racking design, the load and capability of lifting equipment. Sign can be used to remind managers and employees of workplace procedures for the safe use of racking. Operating instructions need to be provided which include but are not limited to:the correct application and use of the equipment, the safe working loads to be adhered to, prohibitions on unauthorized alterations and the requirement to report any damage incurred due to impact so that its effect can be inspected and assessed.
- 5. Goods on Pallet to be stored in racking.
- Goods stored on pallets destined for storage are termed Unit Loads. The design of the pallet should take into account the nature of the goods in the unit load. A change in the pallet design should not be permitted unless the:racking design is suitable to support the weight of the unit load and pallet design keys into the racking and so prevents the unit load from being dislodged. An assessment of any change to the pallet design should be conducted by a competent person to prevent storage problems. Boxes, cartons and other such items stored on pallets should not overhang the pallet. Unit loads on upper levels containing boxes, cartons and other loose loads should be effectively prevented from falling by wrapping, strapping or by some other means.
- 6. Collision protection
- Bottom portions of those frames that are exposed to possible collisions by forklifts or other moving equipment should be protected. The “SEMA Code of Practice for the Use of Static Pallet Racking” gives the following general guidance: Clause 8.4 – Rack Protection “Where necessary, steps should be taken to protect uprights from being struck by forklift trucks and other vehicles. A first line of defense should be incorporated, such as renewable column guards or guide rails, which prevent the trucks getting too close to the main racking structure. Column protection in other areas likely to incur damage should also be considered”.
- 7. Damage reporting
- Employees should report any damage or near miss occurrences, however minor, to the supervisor so that its effect on safety can be immediately assessed and the hazard eliminated or risks reduced.