While much needs tending to in a warehouse, pallet rack safety should be a concern for all those who work with or near a racking system. Warehouses are bustling with the constant movement of people, merchandise and equipment, creating the perfect environment for damage to go unnoticed.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 requires that employers offer a workplace that is free from known hazards to its employees. These hazards are defined as "those likely to cause serious physical harm or, worse case, death." In the last four decades, much progress has been made when it comes to workplace safety thanks to the efforts of employers, health and safety professionals, unions and advocates. Worker injuries and illnesses were down from 10.9 incidents per 100 workers in 1972, to 2.8 per 100 workers in 2017.
While OSHA continues to encourage employers and employees to reduce workplace hazards, it does not go into great detail regarding clear guidelines when dealing with pallet rack safety and damage specifically. Thus, it is up to companies and warehouse managers to acknowledge the risks posed by rack damage and proactively prevent them from occurring. In "Material Handling and Storage," an industry document published by OSHA, they broadly cover the precautions employers and workers can take to avoid "storage hazards." Figuring out, in practical terms, what these hazards might be and what to do with them is mostly left up to the user.
Not convinced it’s an important issue? Perhaps these videos will change your mind
The collapse of a racking system can lead to costly repairs and insurance claims, liabilities, loss of productivity or worse yet, loss of life. Accumulated damage and inaction can heighten the risk level in your warehouse, cause delays in your operations if your racks need to be offloaded, preventing you from using valuable storage space, all things that can hurt your bottom line. So where does one start?
Here are five steps to improve pallet rack safety in your warehouse:
Assess - A good first step is to schedule a baseline survey or assessment of your racking systems to get a clear picture of the state of your racks. This can be done by your maintenance personnel, using a checklist or by a specialist knowledgeable in the field of pallet racking systems. Upon visiting your warehouse, the specialist may recommend a conformity inspection, performed by a specialized engineer, resulting in a detailed and actionable report listing all issues found.
Prioritize - Take a good look at the issues found. The damage identified as being a high priority should be labeled as such, and the affected portion of the rack can be unloaded as a preventive measure. If you were handed a long list of damages, target key problem areas, and high priority items first. Pay attention to high traffic zones where repeated damage has occurred.
Take action - Repair or replace damaged components and protect your racks against future impact. This infographic compares both options and explains how rack repair offers several advantages over the replacement of damaged components with the original equipment manufacturer’s parts.
Engagement - Communicate your safety goals and onboard your workers by making it easy for them to report damage. Damage will go unreported unless those who work around the racks know what to look for and can quickly alert management.
Culture change - This is a difficult one. It can be done through employee training, measuring success and rewarding employees for maintaining a safer warehouse.
- Establish regular rack inspections as part of your maintenance program.
- Look at damage patterns, high traffic areas and protect them.
- Offer proper training to those who work in and around the racks.
- Consider bringing in an expert for additional support in establishing priorities.
Most accidents can be prevented by first acknowledging their prevalence and the risks posed, and then putting in place programs to limit them before they occur. Damotech can help you in building a pallet rack safety program or in the assessment of your rack systems. Start by talking to one of our experts.