EHS & Waste Management

Pallet Racking Inspection – Satisfying Warehouse Racking Safety Guidelines

By October 9, 2019 No Comments

Performing a Daily Pallet Racking Inspection will help increase worker safety, reduce damaged goods and improve overall business performance.

The most common reasons that OSHA cites companies for their pallet racking have to do with basic installation, maintenance, and repair issues. Although OSHA has no specific warehouse racking safety guidelines, they are covered by the general clause of the Occupational Safety Health Act that created the agency, which states simply that each employer shall provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards. In other words, if your pallet racking is not installed correctly or poses an obvious hazard, you can be found in violation of OSHA regulations and fined.

Since warehouses are one of the more dangerous places to work, you might expect OSHA to have created detailed guidelines for the safe operation and use of warehousing equipment. The truth is, when it comes to warehouse racking safety guidelines, OSHA doesn’t offer much guidance. There are only two applicable rules: 1910.176(b), which effectively states that material stored in tiers must be made safe, and 1910.159, which covers fire sprinklers and essentially requires 18 inches of clearance between the rack and the sprinkler. These OSHA guidelines may be vague, but by following some basic, common sense principles and maintaining a maintenance schedule, it is possible to be confident that your warehouse has satisfied OSHA regulations.

OSHA has fined businesses over their pallet racks in the past due to:

Improper Installation: In order to be used safely, a pallet rack needs to be properly installed. A failure to anchor each post and brace properly and to the specifications dictated by the manufacturer is a safety violation.

Damaged Racking: Equipment damage isn’t unusual in the warehouse, and pallet racking is subject to damage from forklifts that bump into the posts or into the horizontal cross braces supporting the pallets. Dings, dents, and bent metal reduce the overall strength of pallet racking, and the damage should be repaired quickly to keep employees safe.

Unsafe Modifications: When a pallet rack is damaged, occasionally a cross member may be replaced with whatever piece of steel is convenient and held in place with whatever fasteners were handy at the time. As a non-engineered modification, this type of repair can be dangerous and will be found in violation of OSHA requirements.

Unposted Capacities: Unless a pallet rack was installed improperly or unauthorized repairs were made, it’s unlikely that overloading racking will cause it to collapse, but damage to the racks is possible. In order to maintain safety, a pallet rack’s maximum load should be clearly posted to avoid overloading and prevent damage to the racks.

All of the above issues can be prevented by implementing a Pallet racking inspection program that inspects the pallet racking on a regular frequency and creates and manages any corrective actions or maintenance tasks that are required to address any issues that are discovered.

Using Mobile Safety Inspection software to perform pallet racking inspections will allow this task to be easily completed rather than using a paper-based system. The ability to scan barcodes, capture photographs as part of the inspection using a tablet or mobile phone, quickly answer a predefined checklist, and to create corrective actions to address any issues found greatly increases the efficiency of the pallet racking inspection process within the warehouse.

Pallet racking inspection should be performed upon installation and periodically checked for damage. A daily pallet racking inspection of pallet racking is recommended. If bent bars or damaged vertical posts are discovered, the affected section should be taken out of use until it can be properly repaired. Parts used in repairs should be provided by the manufacturer or should meet with the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure employee safety.

Pallet racking is designed to easily hold pallets loaded to the maximum capacity, and, in theory, they could hold more weight. The steel framing that makes up most warehouse racking is generally built to work with one of the six ISO standard pallet sizes and whatever loads those pallets can typically carry. The usual figure is about 2,000 pounds of static load for the typical North American Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) spec pallet, and racks will be built with a centerline beam that can support at least 2,000 pounds on each side of the beam facing the aisles. Exact loads can vary depending on the configuration of the pallet rack and the types of pallets used.

Ideally, only wood block pallets and pallets made of sturdy alternative materials such as plastic and metal should be stored on pallet racks. Low-cost stringer pallets are flimsier and become unreliable after a few trips through the supply chain. While OSHA doesn’t take issue with storing stringer pallets in racks, if a pallet failure in a rack leads to injury, they may.

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