Pallet racking can serve as a relatively inexpensive and efficient way to store and protect products in a warehouse, retail, or other environments. The racks can bear substantial weight high above the floor. When properly installed, maintained, used, and managed, pallet racks are perfectly safe under normal conditions. When improperly constructed and poorly maintained, however, they serve as a real hazard, not only to the items stored upon them, but also the lives of employees or customers.
Safe Assembling and Use of Pallet Racking
SafeWork NSW recently issued important guidelines for proper installation and use of pallet racking. These guidelines also can be followed when installing used pallet racking. Safety starts with a proper design and layout. The configuration needs to take into account size, shape, and weight of items stored on the pallet racking, as well as other equipment and items in the general space. Pallet racking should not block emergency exits, lighting, or safe vehicle and walking pathways. Additional guidance should be sought if using pallet racking or used pallet racking with different configurations than the general standard.
Once configured and planned, a company should make sure it purchases a safe product. In 2012, the Rack Manufacturers Institute in the United States published an exhaustive study on manufacturing, assembling, and using pallet racking, which is followed by the US Government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It stresses only using pallet racking composed of the proper grades of steel that have been tested and approved by experts. Like SafeWork NSW, RMI standards include suggestions for safe design and use, such as warnings to account for the facility’s sprinkler and other fire protection systems.
Once in place, administrators must post and follow weight and size limitations on items stored in the pallet racking or used pallet racking. The NSW government mandates posting and compliance with maximum load unit and total rated capacity for each bay. Work health and safety regulations also require proper protection of pallet racking from possible vehicle collisions within the facility.
Proper Maintenance of Pallet Racking
Both pallet racking and used pallet racking are heavy duty pieces of equipment that perform tough tasks under great strain. Even the highest quality product can wear down over time, use, and even the inevitable employee mistakes. Proper maintenance includes having a plan in place for comprehensive auditing and necessary repairs of the pallet racking.
Auditing includes conducting routine assessments of a company’s rack system. This entails checking structural integrity issues, such as frame and bracing damage, pallet condition, areas where welding was used in construction, and other important details. Audits also examine how a company uses the pallet racking system, looking at proper storage procedures, loading and unloading, and capacity. A comprehensive audit analysis reveals both where the system needs repairs and also if use procedures conform to safety guidelines and government regulation. SafeWork NSW’s guidelines include specific information on what type of damage requires what type of repairs.
Any damage found at any time must be reported to management, but NSW law requires that potential threats to employee health and safety from damaged pallet racking must also be reported to WorkCover immediately. In most cases, however, reliance on regular comprehensive audits should prevent danger to employees or customers.