These days I’m noticing an ever-increasing amount of pallet rack damage and old rack that simply should have been retired and replaced. Safety concerns and the ever-present possibility of an OSHA inspection have brought this to the forefront of most in-the-know warehouse managers. A stitch in time saves nine. In other words, a little money well spent now can avoid a big expenditure later.
Protect and inspect
Damaged or poorly installed racking can lead to untold losses in inventory, property damage, legal action, and even loss of life. Regular rack inspections are a must. Know how to conduct an inspection and what to look for, or who to call.
According to the Rack Manufacturers Institute, all racks need to be inspected once a year at an absolute minimum. More frequent rack inspections are highly recommended, particularly in heavy use facilities. Any time there’s a reported or suspected forklift impact they should be re-inspected. In truth, any time there’s any type of visible damage a rack inspection should be called for. Ideally, the inspection should be done by a professional inspector. You also can have one or more of your personnel get trained to perform inspections.
What to look for
Welds, corrosion or rust needs to be called out. I see this more often than would be believed. Some welds are very camouflaged to blend in but make no mistake, the upright has been severely compromised in its structural integrity. I’ve even seen uprights spun around to hide damage. Corroded beams or uprights are another concern. Denting, especially at the corners of the uprights, is a cause for alarm. The appearance of metal weakening needs to be closely examined.
Another concern with old rack or even the installation of new rack is to ensure they are plumb and level. Poorly installed, reconfigured, or inadequately shimmed racks may be slanted or out of plumb. Sometimes cracking or settling concrete floors can move racks out of alignment. Leaning, crooked or misaligned racks can exacerbate or lead to further problems and need to be dealt with quickly.
Check the load to load rating. This is one of the most common and most insidious causes of rack failure. Re-slotting loads without checking the load capacity can lead to overloading and failure. Using beams not rated for the given load is a definite “no”. Check loads against the beam ratings and make sure that beam spacing is appropriate for the upright capacity spacing. Although this sounds difficult and time consuming, it’s usually just a check against previous rack inspections once a baseline is established.
Rack accessories such as column protectors, footplates, or anchor bolt need to be checked. Are the horizontal braces damaged? Look for damaged beams. Do you see any dings, dents, scrapes, and twists? If so, they should be replaced. Are the beams properly secured to the uprights? Check the seating of beam connections, the tightness of safety clips, and broken original rack welds.
Beam deflection needs to be checked. Some deflection or bowing of beams is expected on fully loaded racks. However, beams should not flex more than 1/180th of the total length of the beam. So, on a 96” beam you would expect no more than half an inch of bowing at the center of the beam length. Furthermore, when the load is removed, the beam should no longer bow (i.e. make sure it isn’t permanently bent). For any beam deflection beyond these parameters, beams should be replaced and load versus capacity should be carefully evaluated.
Reduce risk for a safer warehouse
Lastly, remember to document everything. By keeping thorough records of rack inspections you’ll have a good baseline to evaluate any future anomalies. Save multiple copies off site as a backup of all your inspections. These documents may prove to be very useful and should be meticulously maintained.
Need to talk about specific racking challenges in your facility? Contact your local material handling provider today.