02/08/2008

Pay Closer Attention to Pallet Racking

Pallet racks are so commonplace in warehouses, distribution centres, retail
operations and manufacturing plants that it is important that they be
recognized as the potential hazards they are. In light of a recent fatality in
Ontario involving the collapse of a pallet racking system, we'd like to give
the issue some attention. Typically made of steel, pallet racks often support
heavy loads. If the racks fail and the loads fall, there is potential to
severely injure or kill a worker. That's why employers, supervisors and workers
who are responsible for and work around racking should take every reasonable
precaution to ensure the safe operation and maintenance of pallet racks.

WHAT CAN HAPPEN

Racking systems often fail or collapse, in part or in whole. The forklifts that
load the racks often collide with them, causing material to be displaced or
damaging the racking itself. Material sometimes falls through the back of the
racks. In addition, facilities with floor vibration are at risk of loads
crawling and eventually falling off the rack.

These incidents happen when racks are improperly designed, installed or
assembled, when they're being loaded or unloaded with the wrong kind of
material handling equipment, or when they're damaged.

Other causes of failure of pallet rack systems:

  • Overloaded or misused racks

  • Unstable floors or walls

  • Cracks in concrete floors around the anchors (from repeated hitting of the
    pallet rack)

  • Products pushed through the back of the rack or no back rest where needed

  • Operator error, often because the person driving the material handling
    equipment (forklift, reach truck etc.) isn't properly trained

  • After a forklift collision with a rack, employees fail to report the incident
    to management, or fail to assess damage and do the necessary maintenance or
    repairs

  • Using racks to store goods/products they were not originally designed for

  • Bracing is removed or not installed

  • Anchor bolts are not installed

  • Lack of regular inspection and maintenance program

HOW TO PREVENT MISHAPS

According to reports from actual injuries and fatalities related to pallet
racking, the following safe work practices are necessary and can save lives:

Installation - Only workers who have received adequate training and are
familiar with rack assembly procedures should be installing racking systems. It
is critical to ensure that the installation of new racking or modified racking
(which alters the load capacity) is in compliance with health and safety
guidelines in your jurisdiction and carried out in accordance with the
engineering reports and manufacturers' instructions.

Safety training - Anyone working in the area of pallet racking, or operating
the equipment used to load the racks, must receive appropriate training on the
potential hazards and safe work practices.

Maintenance - Racks are not designed to withstand harsh blows. Any structure
that receives a major dent should be replaced or repaired. Many pallet racking
systems are damaged during regular use, most often by forklift trucks.

Inspection - Supervisors and workers should conduct a daily inspection of the
racking system. Things to look for are minor dents (a good indicator of
structural abuse), improper overhang of goods over pallets, pallets over beams,
damaged pallets, storage of improperly sized pallets, and unsafe operation of
material handling equipment.

Once a month, management should conduct an inspection and document the findings
in writing and through drawings to identify any variance (e.g. structural
damage, missing or out-of-position components, etc.) from previous months. It
is important to report findings of daily and monthly inspections and ensure
there is a system in place to address any deficiencies/damage noted.

It is the employer's responsibility to ensure the racking systems in use are
installed correctly, used as intended and maintained in good condition.

Further Information


AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety