Most people view pallet racking as a plain and basic structural design. However, from an engineering point of view, racks also happen to be impressive structures in their conceptual design. Highly efficient, racking systems are created to capitalize on vertical inventory space and maximize load capacities while optimizing overall raw production material.
But when it comes to how pallet racks interact with other elements in the warehouse, the harsh reality is this: because of their original design, they are often damaged by equipment, inventory, and workers.
Knowing this and how to adapt your racks so they can better face the warehouse elements will help you maximize your investment and improve safety in your facility.
Are pallet racks really adapted to warehouse environments?
The reality about racks is that they were never designed to withstand the harsh warehouse environment.
When you think of it, warehouses are typically considered dynamic environments; inventory is continuously in a flux of movement. The greater the flux of change, the greater becomes the traffic that circulates within the warehouse... And the greater can become the risks. To make matters more challenging, most traffic is generated by heavy equipment such as forklifts, and power jacks. As becomes the simple rules of physics:
Heavy lift equipment versus efficient racking structure: Lift truck ALWAYS wins!
It is inevitable, as a statistical probability, that your pallet racking WILL get damaged over a matter of time.
The nuances of rack damage
The intriguing part about pallet rack designs is that the American and Canadian Rack Design Codes (ANSI MH16.1 & CSA S16-19) do not provide information on how to categorize rack damage. Notably, damage to racks is the result of many attributes. It comes in different forms and therefore the answers to address the problems are not always “black and white.”
Nothing bad has happened with my pallet racks so far… Therefore everything must be OK, right?
What remains the most common issue in warehouses is that pallet rack damage is often left unaddressed. Most times, warehouse operators and owners are unaware of the potential risks related to rack damage. In other cases, they become complacent.
Even if rack damage can be overwhelming to address, it happens in every warehouse or distribution center. It also occurs frequently, regardless of the size of the facility. Although it is often difficult to understand the risks associated with the severity of the damage, it is important to remember that damage identified on a pallet rack means that the integrity of that rack design has been compromised.
What happens when your racks are damaged
The greater the damage, the greater the quantities of damaged areas, and the greater the likelihood that your racking system has become weakened. Your load capacities become affected, your rack system can become out of plumb, and structural or safety components are now affected.
That risk is multiplied when considering potential seismic effects. Ultimately, a weakened pallet rack system will lead to an unsafe warehouse. A miscalculated judgment error or the next sudden hit could result in an incident, a potential work stoppage, damaged inventory, or a workplace injury.
Warehouse operators and rack owners are legally liable for providing a safe workplace for their employees. The improper use, selection, installation, or maintenance of racking and storage systems may put workers at risk of injury and expose employers to serious liability in case of an accident.
How to improve the health of your pallet rack systems
Pallet rack damage may be common, but it can be addressed by using the right rack protection or repair products for each specific situation. There are companies and subject matter experts who specialize in pallet rack safety, and who can offer advice for these solutions.
Experts will recommend the best options for your specific environment, in areas where forklift traffic is the heaviest, and at the end of aisles for example, where there is a higher risk of impact with the racking system and where equipment operates at a higher speed.
Rack safety experts can help you develop a roadmap to reduce and eliminate the risks attributed to rack damage. The first step is identifying the risks by conducting a baseline inspection and taking action today!
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