We know it’s important to inspect racking systems to find damage. We know that the rack's load capacity should be respected to ensure a safe environment for all workers and people circulating in the warehouse. But how should we go about checking on this? Inspecting racking components is not necessarily an easy task. This article will give you tips and strategies on how to conduct your inspections and will highlight what you should be paying attention to.
The first thing is to determine what you are looking for. A racking system is an assembly of various components that all have a role to play in the overall proper functioning of the system as well as its integrity from a safety perspective. It is then equally important to be checking for issues related to all the various components, including:
- Base plates, shims and anchors
- Upright columns and braces
- Beams, connectors, safety pins
- Safety bars, wire mesh decking, and other rack accessories
- Clearances, pallet overhang, protection, load capacity labels
Tip #1 Develop a consistent method
Because there may be several rows to assess, we recommend you follow a pattern to avoid forgetting any elements during the inspection. For example, you can start at ground level and observe the baseplates and anchors. Then, look upwards following the columns and paying attention to the braces, going across and verifying the beams and attachments and going back down at the next adjacent upright. You then repeat these steps from one bay to another. There is no perfect order in which to conduct your inspection. Find a process that works for you, then repeat these steps from one bay to another.
Tip #2 A divide and conquer strategy
If you have a lot of pallet racks to inspect, or your warehouse is very big, you might want to separate the warehouse into sections that you can check at different instances. Find a plan of the systems, you should have Load Application and Rack Configuration drawings on hand, and use it to divide your racking systems into more manageable inspections. It’s hard to keep full concentration on a task like inspecting over a long period so be smart and divide your inspections.
One way of going about it is to prepare a schedule that allows you to concentrate on one or a few particular items during a specific inspection.
You may want to use different employees to inspect different components and have a rotation in the inspection schedule to develop an awareness of pallet rack safety among your team. Most people working in material handling will tell you that safety is important, but few can accurately and consistently identify rack safety hazards. This is a good opportunity to teach them.
Tip #3 Use the right tools for the job
Equip yourself with adequate tools and equipment in order to have the most efficient inspection. These are a few pieces of equipment you may want to consider using:
- Flashlight: should be portable to help you see in dark areas, for instance, inside the rack, to inspect the back upright;
- Plum bob or laser level: to verify the verticality of uprights, it’s essential;
- Pen and paper or tablet: to report damage locations and the types of issues found;
- Safety vest with pockets: make sure you are made visible to forklift drivers;
- Camera: to take pictures of found issues and where they are located.
Tip #4 Preparation is key
It’s a good idea to prepare your inspection and make sure the aisles are clear and not encumbered to facilitate the spotting of issues. Since you will be holding tools and doing quite a bit of walking, stretching before, during, and after the inspection is a good practice to avoid any soreness or stiffness resulting from the inspection.
Tip # 5 Plan ahead on how you will manage the gathered data
The inspection is just the beginning. To fully optimize the use of the data collected during your inspection, make sure to have a system in place to sort the valuable information and report on its status. You can then analyze it and put an action plan in place.
An ideal solution for this is a spreadsheet or an integrated platform that allows you to flag, analyze, track, and report the found issues during inspection:
- Where are the rack issues located
- How many deficiencies or missing components were found
- A list of parts that need to be ordered
- Attribute priorities to the issues
- Track the status or progress on the repairs
Finally, safety authorities often recommend an independent (third-party) rack inspection for a complete in-depth inspection of your pallet rack systems on an annual basis. Their expertise will allow you to get updates on current regulations, help you recognize patterns in the damage found, whether it be from forklift impact or other handling equipment. It will also give you a benchmark from which to compare your internal inspections to allow for adjustments in the process if required. Then, if needed, they can assist you in deciding on how to approach the issues, if components should be repaired or replaced. If, like many of us, you are short on time or staff, investing in rack inspection services can prove to be a smart decision.
These rack inspection tips are a great start, but ultimately, including regular rack inspections into your safety program demonstrates that you are doing all you can to provide a safe work environment for your employees.