What Goes Up Could Come Down
In any warehouse or storage operation where inventory is stored high on racks, falling items are always a possibility. Entire pallets, cartons, or individual items can fall for many reasons: a poorly installed rack system, improper loading or stacking, forklift impact, seismic activity, and rack failure. Naturally, any item falling from the top of a high bay will be destroyed (and possibly break things upon landing), but falling items also have the potential to seriously injure people below – or worse. One of the important parts of any warehouse safety protocol is having a good prevention policy for falling items. Here’s a look at what you can do to reduce the risks of falling items in your warehouse.
Design & Installation
The first line of defense is a properly design pallet rack system. There are a number of factors that come into play when designing a racking system, beginning with your soil bearing capacity. Other factors that impact the pallet rack design include your flooring, your pallet and product specifics (dimensions, weight), vertical beam spacing, load distribution, and any seismic concerns. Then the steel performance characteristics come into play: steel type (roll formed or structural), steel thickness (gauge), and steel strength (tensile strength and yield strength). Once your system is properly designed for your specific application, the next step is to insure it is properly assembled and erected by trained, qualified installers according to industry regulations and your local permitting requirements.
Proper pallet loading is essential for ensuring safety in your warehouse. Poor loading techniques are sure to undermine the best designed systems, therefore proper forklift training is crucial to minimizing risk of falling items.
Make sure pallets aren’t loaded too close together to decrease the likelihood of the lift operator bumping an adjacent pallet. The industry standard is that your beam width should be greater than your maximum total load width plus 12″. National fire codes require a minimum 6″ flue space between loads. The vertical spacing is key to successful loading and loading, too. The industry standard for vertical spacing is a minimum of 10″ from the top of the load to the next beam level.
This is common sense, but we’ll say it anyway: If you have a mixture of loads, store the heavy, high density loads on the floor and lower levels and the lighter stuff at the higher levels. If your racks are over-weighted at the very top and under-weighted at the bottom, the outcome could be disastrous.
Make sure loads are evenly distributed, not only side to side, but front to back (if your loads are not evenly distributed, your beam capacities will be lower than stated). Even if you have wire decking designed specifically to help support undersized loads, it’s very important that the loads be centered.
Pallet Rack Inspections
Regular rack inspections are crucial to any warehouse safety strategy. In addition to annual inspections performed by qualified professionals, train your employees to perform frequent walk-throughs and visual inspections. Review of the stress-bearing capabilities for each tier with the system. Check for bent frames, missing beam clips, and out-of-place hardware. Repair or replace damaged components immediately.
Ensure load ratings are posted where they can be easily seen. Capacity issues often arise when new SKUs are brought in, so be sure to check the weights of the new loads and confirm the capacities of your upright frames and beams, as well as the vertical beam spacing.
Pallets have capacities, too. Make sure yours are rated to handle your loads, and also make sure they are in good condition. Ratty or rotted pallets are more likely to cause a product dump, so when in doubt, throw them out.
If you have high bays that overlook work or traffic areas, fall protection is a must. Even a small carton falling from a good distance can cause injury to workers below. Flexible safety nets can be used to catch falling cartons and loose items. Wire mesh rack guards are rigid panels made from welded wire mesh. They are more substantial than nets and are designed to stop items from sliding past a certain point off the back.
Next Level manufacturers a range of wire products, including welded wire mesh rack guards to enhance your warehouse safety program. Call 800-230-8846 now to speak with a warehousing expert or contact us here.