Best Practices for Preventing Pallet Rack Damage

Warehouses and distribution centers can be hectic, and it is essential to have solid damage prevention practices in effect to prevent employee injury and minimize loss. However, in an environment where workers are maneuvering heavy equipment and heavy loads in confined spaces, accidents are bound to happen.

Even the best driver occasionally has a collision, and when a five-ton forklift confronts a pallet rack, the rack is going to lose. Rack collapse is rare, but the structural integrity of the rack can be diminished, laying the groundwork for future failure. Fortunately, a lot can be done to prevent these accidents and minimize the damages when they occur.

  • Training. Driver training should always be at the top of the list. Certification should be required of all forklift drivers, as well as an OSHA-approved safety course. Drivers should also receive training in the racking system and the maintenance, characteristics, and operational limits of their forklift.
  • Visibility. The more a driver can see, the more safely they can perform. Adequate lighting allow’s the driver to safely negotiate the aisle and have a good view of the racks. Likewise, wide-angle convex mirrors mounted on the forklift and at the ends of aisles give forklift drivers an increased ability to observe their surroundings, greatly reducing the opportunity for mishaps.
  • Rack inspection. Pallet racks endure a lot of wear and tear. Collision with forklifts, improper loading, climbing by workers, and normal use put stress on the racks. Trained personnel should regularly inspect racks for structural integrity, damaged uprights, corrosion, row alignment, overloading, and floor condition and level.
  • Replacement/repair. Damaged rack components should be immediately replaced or repaired. Continued use of a structurally damaged rack could lead to failure, which would result in greater cost than fixing the problem. In many cases repairs are much cheaper and involve less down time than rack replacement.
  • Aisle clearances. Aisles should be free of clutter and have ample width for the driver to maneuver the forklift. Stacks of pallets in the aisle only increase the likelihood of an accident.
  • Rack loading. Racks should be properly labeled with clearly defined load tolerances. Drivers should be properly trained to balance and stack loads on the rack, keeping weight centered. Heavier loads should be placed on the lower rack levels, and rack uprights should be designed for the heaviest weight pallets that might be stored. This may require reinforced upright columns.
  • Racking. When deciding on a new racking system, or even upon replacement of damaged components, the type of rack upright columns can be essential. Closed tube and high-strength structural rack uprights are more resistant to damage from collision with a forklift than are open tube rack uprights. While it may cost a little more, it will be far less costly than a rack collapse. Warehouses located in areas at risk for earthquakes must build racks to seismic specs.
  • Speed Limits. Conspicuous posting of speed limits for drivers, and general warehouse safety practices, are a good way to keep employees aware and mindful of safety concerns.
  • Rack Protection. Eventually, a forklift will hit a rack. There are a number of options available to safe guard racks and prevent or limit loss from these impacts. End of aisle rack guards, low profile rack guards, and post protectors are just a few options available.

Warehouses are busy and hazardous centers of activity, and accidents will happen. However, with proper planning, employee training, and properly maintained equipment, many of them can be avoided. As the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

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