Do you help run a bustling warehouse operation? If so, chances are, you make use of ultra-versatile pallet racking systems. These facilities staples help organize your goods for speedy transporting and optimized storage procedures, but they also can become dangerous features of your warehouse if they’re not inspected and regularly maintained.
Typically, most damage occurs when the pallet racks are incorrectly loaded or installed with mechanical handling equipment. If a miss or hiccup transpires while the handling process happens, your associates may not be able to tell if your pallet rack suffered any harm by just giving them system a quick glance. It’s situations like these that can bring about a world of hurt to your operation; damaged pallets could result in loss of inventory, a fine from your regulatory board, or, in the worst cases, rack collapses that could result in workplace injuries or deaths.
Don’t let your operation fall victim to infirm or lacking inspection procedures. Here are 3 pallet racking inspection tips to integrate into your warehouse safety checklist today:
1. Ensure your pallet rack conforms to your existing fire sprinkler’s design
We’re putting this right at the top of the list because it’s not often that we hear about fire safety being part of pallet racking inspections, but it’s something that absolutely should be. The experts at the Rack Manufacturer’s Institute, the authority on all things pallet racking design and safety, announced last spring that they had teamed up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to help its users gain awareness of possible inherent fire dangers that come with installing an in-rack design.
Together, the two organizations have formulated design standards to ensure that all in-rack systems allow for optimal water release as it flows through the storage system when the fire sprinklers are triggered. Without these standards, burning areas within the warehouse or in-rack system might not receive enough water during a fire.
To learn more about how your warehouse can meet this standard, listen to Warehouse Fire Sprinkler Codes and Impact on Storage Racks.
2. Examine the front and rear beams
Often, the pallet racking systems incur the most damage when forklift drivers misjudge distances when collecting pallets or when the forks are longer than the inserted pallets. When this happens, the integrity of the beams can be compromised, a trauma that could eventually end in a destructive rack collapse when more weight is added.
To guarantee that your front and rear beams are in tip-top shape, follow these procedures:
- Carefully observe the shapes of the beams: Are your beams dented or maybe even scraped? If so, chances are they have suffered a collision.
- Measure the deflection: Pallet racking systems are designed for solid storage, but it’s fine if yours shift ever-so-slightly. Having said that, there is a “sweet spot” when it comes to deflection and, according to RMI, the limit equals the horizontal length of the beam divided by 180 – or 0.55% of the clear distance between columns. This bowing can be measured in two phases: when the beams are loaded and when they are unloaded. If yours show more bowing when unloaded, then it’s time for a replacement set.
- Check all connectors: Don’t let a broken weld, too-tight safety clips, or loose bolts be the reason for your warehouse’s rack collapse. Confirm that all connectors – and the accessories that go with them – are secure and in place before you move on.
3. Confirm that your pallet racks are straight and plumb
When a pallet rack column is leaning past an allotted amount, it’s “out-of-plumb” and when a pallet rack column is bowed past an allotted amount, it’s “out-of-straight.” In both circumstances, your pallet rack’s capacity has been reduced significantly due to the damage.
Here’s how you should measure your pallet racks to ensure that they are both plumb and straight:
- Out-of-plumb ratio: To find yours, take the maximum horizontal distance from the column’s centerline at the floor to a plumb line that extends downward from the centerline of the column at the top shelf elevation. Divide this figure by the vertical distance from the floor to the top shelf elevation. The first number will be in inches or millimeters, and the second will be in feet or meters.
- Out-of-straight ratio: To find your out-of-straight ratio, take the maximum horizontal distance from the column’s centerline at any point to a plumb line at any other point. Divide this figure by the vertical distance between the two points. The first number will be in inches or millimeters, and the second will be in feet or meters.
RMI recommends that pallet racking inspections be performed at least once annually, and even more if you make organizational changes that affect weight, spacing, or placement. And, remember, all inspections must be done under the supervision of a trained engineer who is well-versed on your particular racking system. If a vendor or employee ever suggests mixing and matching components from different systems, don’t do it. Each make and model comes with slight differences that could adversely affect the safety of your system.