Shelving + Rack Systems
[divider style=”solid” top=”25″ bottom=”25″][dropcap]I[/dropcap]n the modern warehouse, various storage systems are available to store and protect inventory for retrieval. Used racking systems can be a cost-effective option, but to meet OSHA warehouse safety standards, you’ll need to maintain these systems.
The Importance of Rack Maintenance
Racking systems are designed to support a significant amount of weight — up to several tons per bay — often in busy warehouse environments. If your storage racks are loaded improperly or become damaged, there’s an increased risk of failure.
If a racking system fails, it may collapse, which can cause catastrophic damage and, depending on the warehouse layout, a domino-like effect is possible. In this scenario, as one rack collapses or topples, it causes the rack adjacent to it to collapse, and so on.
To reduce the incidence of workplace accidents and prevent costly inventory losses and cleanup, it’s crucial to follow certain maintenance guidelines. In addition to general warehouse safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also regulates the use of pallet rack systems.
How to Maintain Used Racks
Most maintenance you’ll be performing should be preventative. There are several crucial tasks you need to perform to ensure your used warehouse racks are adequately maintained and in good condition, including:
Conduct regular rack inspections
You should inspect used racking systems on arrival and at regular intervals once installed in your warehouse. Consider inspecting your racks weekly or monthly, depending on the frequency of use.
You’ll need to check your racks for damage and signs of wear, including corrosion or rust, that could compromise the system’s structural integrity. Examine all rack components carefully, including the vertical uprights, beams, safety clips, bolts, decking, and anchors. If your racking system incorporates conveyor belts or roller lanes, you should include those in your assessment.
Assign a qualified person
The individual who conducts the inspection should be familiar with racking systems and individual components, assembly methods, and proper usage.
Log the results for later review
Every sign of damage or wear should be noted. If possible, take photographs of any damage.
Use a flashlight if necessary
If there is insufficient overhead lighting, use a flashlight to illuminate every component you need to evaluate. It can be easy to spot signs of damage on the front faces of the uprights and beams, but dark corners can hide cracks, gouges, and rust.
Ensure weight limits are followed
Every racking and shelving system has a maximum load capacity, both for the total system and per shelf or beam. Several factors affect the weight capacity of a racking system, including the manufacturing method. For example, structural racking is generally stronger than the roll formed variety.
Overloading a racking system can deform the beams, increasing deflection, and weaken the structure. Post signs indicating the maximum weight limit of the racking system. Place these signs at the ends of racks and on individual beams.
Confirm the plumbness of vertical members
In the course of your inspection, you’ll need to confirm that the vertical columns are plumb. If the uprights are plumb, they transfer the weight of the pallet loads downward toward the ground, ensuring the rack is performing optimally. If the uprights are out of plumb, this can compromise the load capacity, applying additional stress to the structural components.
Determine the best aisle width
There should be sufficient aisle space in warehouses with high forklift traffic to allow forklift drivers to safely navigate the racking systems. The minimum acceptable clearance depends on the turning radius of your forklift trucks. If you don’t know the specifications of your forklifts, consult the manufacturer.
Install proper lighting systems
Ensure that each aisle has adequate overhead lighting for maximum visibility; a forklift driver should see objects and personnel clearly at all times. High-visibility floor tape can also help drivers maneuver safely, especially in the event of a power outage. Mighty Line® patented floor tape from SRS comes in various colors, including luminescent varieties.
Protect your columns
An excellent example of preventative maintenance is installing column protectors. The uprights — vertical columns — are susceptible to damage from forklift collisions. To reduce the risk and severity of impact damage, you can install column protectors, which act as shields or barriers. Steel column protectors also have a bright yellow powder-coated finish for increased visibility.
You can also use safety netting to protect your workers and your inventory in the event of a collision. Widely used in construction, safety netting can prevent your pallets from falling off rack beams.
Training is critical
In addition to protecting your racks against impact, strive to prevent actions that may lead to a collision. Depending on the circumstances, this requires formalized training in forklift operations, certification, and refresher training. OSHA regulations only require refresher training under a specific set of conditions.
- The driver has been operating the vehicle unsafely
- The driver has been involved in an accident
- During an evaluation, the driver demonstrates unsafe operating practices
- The employer assigns the driver to a different truck type
You must evaluate the driver’s ability to operate a forklift safely at least every three years. However, you can conduct these evaluations more frequently if necessary. Even if you use simple material handling equipment, such as pallet jacks, your personnel should know how to operate it safely.
If you’re concerned about unreported forklift damage, you can paint the forks and engine/battery compartment — front and rear — of each forklift a different color. That way, you’ll know who’s responsible for damage and can follow up with more training.
Anchor your racks
For lateral stability, all racking systems should be securely anchored to the warehouse floor. Anchoring is the process of bolting the rack directly to the concrete floor and is necessary for the lateral stability of the rack. Anchors resist forklift collisions and seismic forces.
The anchor size you need depends on applicable building codes, the diameter of the anchor holes in the rack’s base plates, and factors related to the building. How level the warehouse floors are affects whether shims are necessary.