Rack Damage Assessment: The 1-2-3 Rule Explained

Posted on April 27, 2021 - updated on June 10 2021 
Krishan Modi, CEP

You have completed a safety warehouse inspection and have located some damages on uprights. What do you do now? Assessing the degree of deformation and what to do about it can be complicated. At Damotech, we recommend using the 1-2-3 rule of thumb to help determine in what priority damages should be addressed. What is the 1-2-3 Rule? Where does it come from? Why should we use it? When should we use it? Who should use this rule? All these questions will be answered in this blog post. Keep in mind that this rule is an unofficial guideline to help during warehouse racking inspections and should not replace the evaluation performed by an engineer. There are many factors contributing to the performance of racks such as load capacities and seismic activity. Consider using our engineering services if you need to consult with a rack safety expert.

What is the 1-2-3 Rule?


This rule is an inspection guideline to evaluate the degree of deformation on upright elements. The name 1-2-3 refers to three distinct damage tolerances (1/8”, 2/8” and 3/8”) applicable to the front of the upright column, the sides of the upright columns and braces. Below are these steps explained in further detail:

Step 1. Uprights: Frontal Damage

Step 1_Uprights_Frontal Damage

Start with what is easiest to see: damage to the front part of a column. Examine the column carefully and check if there is a deflection of over 1/8” within a span of 40 inches. Take it a step further and look for other types of damage like cracks, bulges, pinched columns, twists and any sign of corrosion. Any of these are worth investigating with a 3rd party rack safety expert via a more thorough rack inspection. Engineers specializing in rack safety will look beyond the damage to certify that the rack systems comply with governing rack design and safety standards.

Step 2. Uprights: Lateral Damage

Step 2_Uprights_Lateral Damage

Any column side deformation of over 2/8” within a span of 40 inches should be addressed. Pay particular attention to the damage that is sometimes hidden behind the beam connectors.

Step 3. Braces: Horizontal & Diagonal Brace Damages

Step 3_Brace Damages

A rack frame bracing consists of horizontal and/or diagonal members that join the front column to the rear column. These members are very carefully designed by the rack manufacturer to stabilize the rack frame in the cross-aisle direction and to support each of the individual columns. Any damage to these components can jeopardize the stability of the upright and could degrade the structural integrity of the entire racking system. Therefore, if you spot a deflection of over 3/8” within a span of 40 inches, it should be addressed. If a brace is detached or missing it should be addressed immediately.

Where Does the 1-2-3 Rule Come From?

The origin of the 1-2-3 rule comes from the guideline FEM 10.2.04 (European Materials Handling Federation). It advises a similar procedure for the assessment of rack damages. Specifically, it states that a 1-meter (~40”) straight ruler should be used to assess the damages. For frontal damages, the deviation should not surpass 3mm (~1/8”). For lateral damages, the deviation should not surpass 5mm (~2/8”). For brace damages, the deviation should not surpass 10mm (~3/8”). The guideline states that any damages under these conditions are not considered critical. If damages are beyond these limits, they should be immediately addressed. It is important to note that there are plenty of exceptions so it would be wise to refer to a rack specialist when in doubt.

Why Use the 1-2-3 Rule?

The 1-2-3 rule is a quick and simple rule of thumb to help you assess rack damage in your warehouse. Not only is it easy to remember, but it will make your inspection more concise! Use this method alongside our inspection checklist to make your rack damage assessment as hassle-free as possible.


When Should the 1-2-3 Rule Be Used?

The rule should be used when damage has been reported to determine the priority of actions to be taken. For example, if the deformation is under the 1-2-3 rule of thumb, it can be monitored. However, if it is larger, it should be addressed by an engineering professional. The rule should also be used during your routine rack inspections. We recommend doing a monthly in-house inspection and a yearly 3rd party rack inspection. Read more about other scenarios when it may be a good idea to get your pallet racks inspected here.

Who Should Use the 1-2-3 Rule?

Safety is everyone's responsibility; hence anyone can use the rule to assess damage in your warehouse. Preferably, whoever is tasked with overseeing your pallet rack inspections and has 1-meter (~40”) measuring stick!

Rack Safety is a Shared Responsibility

Now that you are more familiar with the 1-2-3 rule, you can use it during your next warehouse rack inspection. Remember that it’s a rule of thumb and that there are plenty of exceptions. If you want to learn more about damage assessment, consider booking a rack safety training session for you and your warehouse employees. Safety is everyone’s responsibility and training your workforce on rack safety and rack damage assessment is one of the best investments your company can make to minimize unnecessary risk.


CSA Group (Canadian Standards Association). (2017). User guide for steel storage racks. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. https://www.csagroup.org/
FEM (European Materials Handling Federation). (n.d.). FEM 10.2.04. https://www.fem-eur.com/

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Welcome to the world of Damotech, the first and largest rack safety solutions specialist in North America. With its lines of rack protection and repair products, Damotech strives to put an end to the endless cycle of upright replacement by focusing on warehouse safety and the permanent elimination of recurring rack damage. Through our engineering services, we will help create a safer working environment for you and your employees, bringing you true peace of mind while saving you money in the process.


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