It is a warehouse manager and worker’s worst nightmare: a sudden and harrowing collapse of a racking system. One might expect that what triggers a rack collapse is the pressure of a single blow to the rack by a pallet being loaded hastily or a single crash by a forklift truck. However, as you will find below, these events occur for many unfortunate and sometimes surprising reasons. In this article, we will take a closer look at some catastrophic racking collapses from around the world. We will then draw some key lessons from each one, as they all present an eye-opening learning opportunity in pallet rack safety.
1. Rack Safety and Regular Inspections
What Can Be Observed:
In this video, we can see that the forklift driver is struggling because he is moving forward and backwards several times, trying to retrieve the pallet. What appears to be a low velocity impact propagates into a disastrous system collapse before our eyes.
Training warehouse workforce on forklift truck driving, as well as on rack safety is one of the best investments a company can make to minimize unnecessary risk. Learning what the proper course of action to take when rack safety issues occur can sometimes make difference between life and death. More information on training opportunities can be found here. Racks must also be properly used and maintained so that the maximum permissible load is not exceeded. Load capacity refers to the maximum load that may be placed on a given racking system. How is one supposed to know the max load a rack can hold? This is where the LARCs come in handy. LARCs (Load Application and Rack Configuration drawings) establish the load capacity of pallet racking. Knowing and displaying your pallet rack load capacity in the form of visible labels is critical to the safe operation of your warehouse. And finally, protecting racking in high traffic areas is also recommended as these heavy-duty steel protection devices offer high-impact resistance and extend the life of your racking.
2. Adequate Forklift Operator Training
What Can Be Observed:
The forklift driver makes a bad call when he attempts to squeeze through a tight passage with the wide load he is transporting. He bumps into a front column of the rack, causing a dangerous collapse.
Ensuring that all forklift operators have gone through a formal training (and subsequent “refresher” trainings) is key in accident prevention. OSHA requires both education and certification (requiring an in-person component) before you can safely operate a forklift. If companies implemented stricter training policies, OSHA estimates that about 70% of forklift accidents in the U.S. could be prevented. The forklift truck driver in this video could have been more cautious with the task at hand. He could have stopped and made sure his path was cleared before passing. Adding pallet rack protection products such as guards and end guards also help to protect the rack upright columns and pathways from forklift impact. These are cost-efficient and simple rack safety solutions that help prevent cumulative rack damage which in turn, may potentially prevent a collapse such as this one.
3. Being Conscious of the Consequences of Every Decision
What Can Be Observed:
A forklift truck driver can be seen coming down the warehouse aisle and tries to maneuver around a few pallets. Although we cannot see a significant impact to the racks, a shocking domino effect collapse ensues.
Sometimes, no matter how much technical training one gets or how many years of experience one has under their belt, things can still go wrong. Human error exists as it is impossible for anyone to be perfect – even in the warehouse environment. As a warehouse manager, you cannot control your workers’ every move. However, by training your employees on how to be more conscious of the consequences of their actions, you can help them make better choices. As we see in this video, a split-second bad decision had a huge impact. If this forklift driver had been more self-aware and had taken the time to reflect on the possible impact of his decision to drive through the narrow passageway, he may have thought twice about it. He may have asked the other workers to move the pallets that were obstructing the aisle, possibly avoiding the collapse entirely.
Although unrelated to the cause of this collapse in particular, aisle width is something that should also be carefully considered in a warehouse. It should be larger than any type of load that will be carried by the forklift truck. Aisle width is determined either by calculation or by referring to the forklift manufacturer’s recommendations. Traffic patterns must also be devised and communicated with warehouse workers, especially forklift truck drivers.
4. Racking Behavior in Seismic Zones
What Can Be Observed:
During an earthquake, a portion of the racking fails to hold the products. The warehouse worker who is seen at the top of the screen makes a desperate run to exit the warehouse.
While seismic activity is not one of the leading causes of pallet rack collapse, purchasing and installing racks that are designed to withstand seismic shock is vital. Warehouses in moderate to high seismic zones should be more rigorously inspected for damage and/or defects. The rack loads must always respect the LARCs (Load Application and Rack Configuration drawings). When damage is spotted, the decision to either replace or repair the damaged rack components should be made swiftly as the repercussions of disregarding such damage can have devastating consequences.
5. Proper Attachment of Pallet Rack Beams
What Can Be Observed:
A man in a warehouse-type retailer is shopping when suddenly products fall from the shelves. What is unique about this collapse is that it is isolated, as only the contents of one cell plunge to the floor. This tells us that a beam likely unclipped.
During rack inspection, one must ensure that beams are properly attached, and the presence of adequate safety pins must be observed. Safety pins help prevent beams from accidentally dislodging during normal loading and unloading tasks. It is likely that the beam in this video was only partially detached, but then given the weight of the product load, it finally gave way. If these steel storage shelves were regularly inspected, perhaps this incident could have been prevented.
It is also very good practice to use additional rack protection products such as safety bars and rack decking, that can help further support load on your racking. Safety bars are installed between beams and can prevent misplaced pallets from falling through or prevent beams from spreading apart. Rack decking is a safety device that sits on top of two beams in a cell and provides small packages from falling through. It can be used in conjunction with safety bars.
A third option is adding safety netting that can be easily installed to the racking frames. It provides an effective barrier for keeping loose items or smaller sized items from falling into a workspace or aisle way, protecting anyone walking by storage racks and offering product fall protection.
Support from Rack Safety Professionals
The warehouse collapse videos viewed above show the importance of racking quality, their engineering and their proper fit depending on use and location. Regular inspections are necessary to maintain rack integrity. Most experts and governing bodies agree to recommend monthly pallet rack inspections done by warehouse personnel, and yearly independent inspections performed by third party rack experts or engineers. An engineer will look beyond the superficial dents and cracks and give you an in-depth assessment of your racking health. Working with a knowledgeable rack safety solutions provider can help avoid these types of devastating warehouse collapses.
Invest in rack repair and protection products that are right for your needs and installed properly. Your first line of defense against damage is the use of rack upright guards. Guards are an efficient way of protecting the lower portion of rack uprights, where over 85% of damage occurs. When damage is detected, rack repair kits are available to fix rack columns and braces, without requiring to unload and replace the entire upright. When compared to upright replacement, pallet rack repair is the most convenient and cost-effective solution for rack damage.
Damotech’s specially designed rack repair and protection products offer a cost-effective and durable solution to pallet rack damage. They also come with a lifetime warranty against impact. This means that once installed, if your unit were to get significantly damaged, we would simply replace it, no questions asked. Our experienced engineers offer services including rack inspections, load capacity calculations, and more. Investing in safety and proper maintenance of your racking is the best way to prevent the above catastrophes from occurring. If your company is not making rack safety a top priority, talk to an expert today to find out how we can help support you in your rack safety journey.
Photo source: www.dailymail.co.uk