Essential Safety Practice Considerations For Installing Industrial Storage Racks

Construction & Contractors Articles

To the untrained eye, industrial pallet racks are the super-size version of shelves you'd have in the garage to hold camping gear, boxed-up Christmas ornaments and garden tools. In actual practice, pallet racking systems are configured for large-scale storage and use requirements in manufacturing, packaging and shipping processes. The shelving is big, heavy and has specific weight-bearing tolerances. Proper installation, maintenance and personnel training practices are necessary to prevent accidents and injury when working around warehouse shelving racks.

Installation: Steady, Sturdy and Sound

Accident prevention starts before the pallet racks even start to be used. Make sure the racks are secure enough to withstand long-term use and the occasional unexpected bump by a forklift. Key checklist items for installation include:

  • Surface. The floor – typically a concrete slab – must have sufficient structural integrity to hold the weight that will be stacked on the shelves. Any cracks must have been permanently repaired. If the surface is uneven or sloping, select a rack system with adjustable footings to ensure the shelving is even and stable.
  • Spacing. Allow sufficient space around the rack system for loading and unloading pallets on the shelves. In most cases, this means there must be room for a forklift to maneuver with plenty of floor space for backward motion and turning around while fully loaded.
  • Clearance. Overhead sprinklers are a critical part of you warehouse fire protection program. Whatever material is stored on the top shelf of the pallet rack must allow sufficient clearance for the sprinklers to function properly in case of emergency. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations specify an 18-inch minimum clearance. Plan ahead for the size of material you intend to place on the upper shelf. You may need to change your plan for the rack's placement or adjust shelving levels for compliance and safety.
  • Anchoring. The upright columns of the racking system must be secured at the base. Ensure the anchor bolts are of sufficient strength, size and depth in the concrete slab to handle the weight the shelves will carry.
  • Finishing Touches. Place bumpers and guards on the corners of the racks to protect workers who might accidentally bump into the shelving system in the normal course of work. In some cases, you might opt for extra-sturdy bumpers placed strategically to absorb unintentional bumps from transport carts or a forklift.

Training for Proper Use and Safety

As with any new equipment or work process, staff training is essential to ensure both optimal use and safety. In addition to the materials handling personnel, include clerical and purchasing staff in an overview of the new system so they are aware of the pallet rack's weight and volume capabilities and limitations.

Although a portion of the training will be customized to your company's own needs and the materials your rack system is used for, general topics covered should include:

  • Fork lift operator certification and ongoing safety training. Use the checklists provided by OSHA to ensure your operation and safety training program is comprehensive and in compliance with all applicable regulations.
  • Stacking techniques, height and weight limitations, and the procedures necessary to change the existing system. Each rack should be labeled with information about the allowed capacity. Implement an inspection system so that various personnel check and double check that the shelves are not overloaded or packed in an unsafe manner.
  • Damage control and reporting. Establish a system to inform the facilities manager or warehouse manager of any damage that occurs so that any repairs can be done promptly. Institute a routine inspection schedule to ensure that supporting beams, connections and welds, and shelving material are all in good shape.
  • Fall protection equipment and training. Although climbing on pallet racks should rarely occur, it may be necessary if there is a load shift on the shelves or if close inspection and repairs are required. Only allow individuals on the rack who have had fall prevention training and are using the appropriate harness or shock-absorbing lanyard.

Whether you need a standard pallet rack or one customized to your unique warehouse needs, don't hesitate to turn to your supplier for consistent, experienced support in installation and training. For more information, contact a company like Certified Handling Systems

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14 March 2016

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