Pallet Rack Safety Pins: Extra Safety in a Tiny Package

Posted on April 20, 2021 - updated on April 14 2022 
Alexander Jones, CEP

What is a Safety Pin?

When you think of a safety pin, the first thing that may come to mind is a pin that is commonly used for attaching or securing pieces of material together; for example, in clothing. A safety pin in the world of pallet racking has a similar role of acting as extra security. Whether you refer to them as racking safety pins, locking pins, beam locking devices, safety clips, or j-pins, their purpose is to secure pallet rack beams to uprights, preventing the beam from disconnecting when struck with an upward force caused by a pallet load or forklift.

Static pallet racking systems commonly allow loads of 2500 lb per pallet. That is 5000 lb for a pair of beams, which is roughly equivalent to supporting a pickup truck! You may be surprised to learn that many racking designs simply have the beams hooked into the columns. They are held solely by gravity and the weight of the supported load pushing down on them, with nothing else preventing the beam from being lifted out of place. With this design, beams can be quickly removed by hand, by lifting the beam up and out, making it easy to assemble and disassemble the racking.

Two safety pins securing the beams into the column

Figure 1. An example of two safety pins securing the beams into the column.

Consider the scenario where a beam is accidentally lifted while the level underneath it is being loaded or unloaded. Lift equipment can raise a pallet and its load with enough force to also lift the beam above it, something that can be difficult for the operator to notice. If the lifted beam disconnects from the supporting column, it is then at risk of falling when the lift operator backs away, dropping the supported product and potentially causing damage or injury. Another critical factor to consider is that installed beams contribute to the capacity of the racking by laterally supporting the columns from buckling. Therefore, removing beams - intentionally or not - reduces the load capacity of the rack, which could then be overloaded due to its new configuration. It is for this reason that a rack’s load capacity should be evaluated whenever beams are reconfigured.

Pallet racking pins are important because they prevent beams from unclipping from the supporting column when subject to a lifting force that may occur in normal warehouse operations.

How Do Safety Pins Work?

Safety pins are installed at the connection between the beam and column. Every beam is supported on each end, therefore two pins per beam need to be installed. Each safety pin must be capable of resisting an upward force of 1000 lb (4.5kN) as specified in design codes CSA A344 Section 11.3.1 and ANSI MH16.1 Section 5.4.2.

Steel storage racks using structural steel members with bolt-on beams do not fall under the considerations of this article. Beams that are securely bolted to the columns do not have the same risk of disconnecting as clip-on beams. For these racking types, it is important to inspect the bolts to verify they are present, and properly tightened to the installation specification.


How to Prevent Dislodging of Beams

Most commonly, beams are dislodged due to unintentional contact when using lift trucks, both when loading or unloading pallets, or by collisions. To reduce the risk of damaging the racking, pallets should only be loaded into cells where clearance of 6in can be maintained between the top of the load and the next beam above it (RMI Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks 2.13.2). Additionally, aisles used for circulation should be wide enough for the specific vehicles in use, and every equipment manufacturer will recommend a safe aisle width for their products. For more details regarding aisle width, read this article.

Beam without (left) and with (right) a safety pin, stamped pin shape is visible.
Figure 2. Beam without (left) and with (right) a safety pin, stamped pin shape is visible. (Source: ECO Racking)

Considering Load Capacity & Pallet Rack Compatibility

While load capacities may exceed 5000lb per pair of beams, the safety pin requirement remains at 1000lb each, so 4000lb per pair of beams. This means that some light loads could be supported by safety pins alone, however, this is never a safe condition, and it should be immediately addressed. Safety pins are installed only as a preventative device, to ensure the main beam connector always remains engaged, and is never used to support any load or to increase racking capacity. It is important to verify that all beams are properly installed in the columns before installing safety pins, and that the safety pins are compatible with the type of racking. An incompatible pin may not be sufficient to prevent the beam from becoming disconnected.

Now that the importance of having properly installed safety pins is clear, it should be no surprise that safety pins must be installed in all racking systems that are loaded or unloaded using material handling machinery (CSA A344 Section 11.3.1, ANSI MH16.1 Section 5.4.2). Consequently, the use of safety pins is not required on racking loaded by hand, where it is less likely to have a beam become disconnected. However, the use of safety pins in such use cases is always encouraged, as an added low-cost protection for workers, and where the rack’s use might change to be machine loaded in the future.

Choosing the Right Type of Safety Pin

There are many styles of safety pins available for purchase in case a safety device is not already integrated into the beam connector design. Most can be categorized as either permanent or removable pins. The distinction is that permanent pins are installed with basic tools (wrenches), whereas removable pins require no tools to install or remove. Removable pins offer slightly less protection, as there is nothing, except friction and gravity, preventing the pin from being moved out of the proper position either by vibrations or contact with pallets, highlighting the need for regular rack inspections to ensure everything is still present and engaged. Removable safety pins generally have faster installation times and are available at a very low cost; some styles are made by stamping the shape from excess material, leaving behind a drop pin shaped hole on the beam connector. Seeing a safety pin stamped from the beam material is often a hint to the manufacturer’s suggested safety pin shape.

Here are a few common safety pin styles:

Removable J Pin

Installed by dropping through aligned holes in the column and beam connector.
Removable J Pin
Permanent Bolt Pin

Installed by threading through aligned holes in the column and beam connector or secured by a nut on the backside.
Permanent Bolt Pin
Removable Clip Style Safety Pin

Installed by hooking on the beam connector and passing the round pin through aligned holes in the column and beam connector.
Removable Clip Style Safety Pin
Removable Stamped Safety Pin

Installed by dropping through aligned holes in the column and beam connector.
Removable Stamped Safety PIn
Removable Stamped Safety Pin

Installed by dropping through aligned holes in the column and beam connector.
Removable Stamped Safety Pin

When selecting a safety pin style, it is important to consult the rack manufacturer’s recommendations. Some might recommend the use of stamped pins, which have square edges, where others may suggest using round pins. In warehouses where racking is frequently rearranged, there is a small benefit to using removable drop style pins, where fast and easy installation and removal are desired. However, for warehouses that do not see frequent rack modifications, permanent safety pins can be recommended so that once they are installed, they will remain in place and function more efficiently. Always remember that moving or removing beams affect the load capacity of your racks, and corresponding LARC drawings are required.

Add Safety Pins to Your Rack Inspection Checklist

Now that you are more familiar with rack safety pins and their use, be sure to include them on your checklist for your regular warehouse inspections. For a more complete list of what to inspect on your racking, read this article. By paying attention to your safety pins and replacing any that are missing, or may have been damaged, you will ultimately ensure the safety of all warehouse employees – especially those working in close proximity to your pallet racks. If ever you are in doubt, reach out to a rack safety partner for advice.

Rack Manufacturers Institute, Inc. (September 30, 2020) How Point Loads and Uniformly Distributed Loads Affect Safe Rack Design.

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