Case study

How to maintain safety between annual pallet racking inspections

Dec 30, 2021 | Pallet Racking

Warehouse safety is heavily reliant on people being adequately trained on such things as first aid or machine and equipment operation but is training to ensure the ability to detect potential danger in the racking structure just as crucial? As an industry leader and advocate for warehouse safety WSL’s qualified inspections team strongly advise that in collaboration with professional annual inspections, in-house safety checks should be carried periodically throughout the year by selected personnel who have received rack inspection training. The knowledge gained from the training will enable competent monthly or weekly safety checks where none obvious hazards can be spotted, reported and acted upon.

What contributing factors create an unsafe pallet racking structure?

Annual racking inspections play a crucial role in safeguarding your warehouse. However, continuous operational activities between the inspections carry risk of knocks, bumps and abrasion to the structure. The risk level will vary in accordance to the type of racking being used, the extent of use and whether adequate protection is in place, although potential damage is most likely to occur in the following situations:

  • Restricted visibility – Racking is a tall structure which enables pallets to be stored at height; visibility is restricted for the operator who remains seated in the fork lift truck (FLT) when loading the pallet at height.
  • In-task hindrances – Component damage can occur without preventative measures where needed such as an unguided FLT operating in a deep running lane within the structure, or the absence of backstops where the back of racks leave pallets vulnerable to going over the edge.
  • Pallet variation mismanagement – Pallets loaded incorrectly or pallets of varying sizes without adequate racking support can be damaging to the racking structure.
  • Constricted FLT movement – FLT’s required to turn through 90 degrees can only do so safely if the racks are positioned to provide adequate aisle width space.
  • Inaccurate pallet placement–Pallets placed without attention to angle can result in pressure on the structure from the poorly placed pallets.
  • High risk areas left exposed – Specific areas of the pallet racking structure are more vulnerable than others. The uprights and end racks for example are most likely to be hit by the moving FLT therefore upright and end of aisle protection will help limit the risk of serious FLT incidents.
  • Insufficient operator training – Driving and operating a FLT without the necessary training is likely to result in collisions and incorrect pallet loading, both of which can result in damage to the racking structure. Retraining at regular intervals is also essential to ensuring operator handling remains competent.
  • Poor housekeeping–Loose boxes, trolleys or pallets left on an access aisle can obstruct the operation and cause accidents involving collisions with the racking structure.

In consequence to the above is accidental damage to the racking system which can seriously hinder the stability of the structure.

Racking beams

 

Why carry out in-house inspections?

When it comes to weaknesses in you pallet racking system potential danger can be out of sight unless you know what to look for and how to look. An accidental knock to the structure which may have gone unnoticed or discarded as minor with ‘no damage done`, could actually become the primary cause of major pallet racking collapse.

The three main reasons why early detection of potentially dangerous faults within the racking structure are as follows:

  • To ensure Health and Safety Legislation is continually upheld

Employers are legally obliged to ensure the following:

  • The health, safety and welfare of employees under The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Measures and responsibilities are fully understood by its workforce under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Act 1999
  • Equipment used by employees do not risk their health and safety under The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998
  • Risks are adequately communicated to employees via signage under The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

Routine safety checks ensure the business is fulfilling its legal duty as an employer to prioritise the health, safety and wellbeing of employees who have the right to be and feel safe at work.

  • To uphold moral issues

As people it is our moral obligation to ensure we do not:

  • Cause the death of another person
  • Risk the health and safety of others
  • Harm others

Unsafe pallet racking can result in any of the above making routine in-house checks all the more important.

  • Avoid financial suffering as a result of a major incident or accident

As illustrated by the‘iceberg theory`, some things are hidden, like the largest bulk of costs associated with a major incident or accident. The visible part of the iceberg are the insured costs, however in the depths below the surface are the uninsured costs such as fines, compensation, higher insurance premiums and prosecutions etc. Once added up the uninsured costs will far outweigh anything claimed back through insurance and to put this into perspective for every £1.00 claimed, there is an uninsured cost of around £10.00-£36.00.

For the little time and costs involved in ensuring a continuously safe pallet racking structure, it pales in comparison to the cost of a serious but preventative incident.

Checking the rack structure is stable

How to introduce in-house rack inspection to your warehouse

The first step would be to enter selected personnel to undertake a rack safety awareness course. These would normally consist of employees whose main duties are carried out in the warehouse and so are already familiar with the setup, such as warehouse operatives, supervisors and managers.

Rack safety awareness courses such as the one provided by WSL would normally take around half a day and can be conducted with up to six trainees per session.

To assist your in-house inspectors, they would require the following basic tools:

  • Spirit level/Straight edge of 1 metre
  • 500mm straight edge
  • Steel rule
  • Tape measure
  • String line
  • Tapered wedge

Trainees will learn how to locate damage and measure its extent to enable them to categorise the severity in terms of green for surveillance only, amber for action as soon as possible or red for immediate action.

Once training is complete the delegates will be issued with certification to confirm their competence and knowledge as an internal rack inspector and will have the ability to carry out weekly or monthly rack inspections going forward. It’s important to note that you should only permit the personnel having completed this training to carry out the inspections in your warehouse.

For more information about WSL racking inspections and our trainee courses please contact or racking inspector co-ordinator Jo on 0113 2045350 or email sales@wslmail.co.uk

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