Warehouse workers know how busy things can get. Machine and foot traffic both cause a lot of wear and tear on a warehouse floor. Damage to the floor is visible and hard to ignore. However, you might be overlooking another workhouse in the warehouse: the pallet racking.
A reliable warehouse racking system is a great way to store products efficiently. Pallet racking storage systems can hold thousands of pounds and withstand impact from machines, other merchandise, and general daily use. But no rack systems can withstand wear and tear and impact forever. An essential safety procedure for your warehouse is performing pallet racking inspections at regular intervals.
Considerations for Pallet Racking Inspection
It might surprise you to find there are no specific OSHA guidelines for how often pallet racking inspections should be performed. This is because every warehouse has its own needs. However, this does not mean that rack safety should be ignored or that you shouldn’t carefully choose your pallet racking installation services.
While hiring a professional health and safety executive (HSE) to perform rack inspections at least every 12 months is a great idea, you should also ensure your racks are being inspected regularly through internal inspections. Designating one or more Person(s) Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS) in your organization can help streamline the process of pallet racking inspections.
Once rack installation is complete and you have a PRRS or rack inspector appointed, how often do pallet racking inspections need to be conducted? Use this general guide to determine under what conditions and how often you should perform pallet racking inspections.
Consider how the following risk assessment characteristics apply to your warehouse:
High level of traffic
The more people and machines move in and out of your warehouse aisles, the more frequently your pallet racking can be damaged or simply become worn out over time. Especially with machine traffic, the risk of a forklift, stock picker, or aisle reach truck denting or damaging your pallet racking increases exponentially the busier the warehouse is and the more machines there are.
Large number of machine operators
The more people are trained to operate warehouse equipment correctly, the more efficiently your warehouse runs — usually. It also comes with the tradeoff that the more machines are on the warehouse floor at any given time, the higher the risk of damage to your pallet racking.
Narrow aisles are harder to navigate through for obvious reasons, meaning a higher risk of damage or destruction. If your aisles aren’t much wider than the machines you use to navigate them, your pallet racking is at an increased risk of regular impact and damage.
Do machine operators in your warehouse frequently use one aisle to move to the next one? These are called transfer aisles, and by nature, they are especially high-traffic, leaving them at increased risk of damage.
No or limited climate control
If your warehouse gets bitterly cold in the winter, beware: you might not have climate control. Colder warehouses are more susceptible to racking damage since the products become denser. It can also affect the structural integrity of the racking itself over time.
Especially heavy product
Do you stock heavy materials in your warehouse, such as lumber or stone? If you have many especially heavy pallets, your racking can sag or become more unstable over time, meaning it will require more frequent inspections.
Has your racking gotten damaged? Damaged racking will require more frequent inspections, even if it’s been repaired.
How Often You Should Inspect Pallet Racking
Based on the list above:
Low potential for damage: At least every 12 months
If 1-2 characteristics on the list above apply to your warehouse, perform pallet racking inspections at least every 6 months.
Medium potential for damage: At least quarterly
If 3+ characteristics on the list above apply to your warehouse, perform pallet racking inspections at least every 3 months (quarterly).
High potential for damage: At least monthly
If 4+ characteristics on the list above apply to your warehouse, perform pallet racking inspections at least every month.
In some parts of Europe, it’s the law to have an EMA-approved racking inspector perform an independent racking inspection at least once a year on top of regular internal visual inspections. Based on their assessment, racking damage is sorted into color categories of green, amber, and red risks, with green meaning continued use is permitted, amber meaning the rack needs repair when possible, and red meaning the rack needs immediate unloading and repair.
While the United States doesn’t have the same unified requirements, it’s best to play it safe and get in touch with a professional racking inspector at least once per year so you can have another set of eyes on your pallet racking.
When it comes to pallet racking safety, like all warehouse safety, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.” If you do not take care of this crucial safety need, you could be liable for a whole host of incidents that can happen, up to and including harm to warehouse staff. Don’t risk it.
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