Guard Your Pallet Racking—Protection Pays!
Receiving—Moving—Storing, and Protecting! Material handling activities can bring a multitude of challenges. One being, lift trucks coming into contact with pallet racks. The repeated impact from forklifts can cause significant damage to your facilities’ pallet racks. Even a sturdy, well-designed rack system can be subject to abuse and should have safety processes in place. Let’s review some of the most common reasons for damage caused by forklift impact.
- Improper Operating Clearance – Utilization of available space is a primary objective of any storage layout. Many are designed to keep operating aisles, clearances, and other measurements to a minimum. However, if aisle widths are too tight there will be visible signs of trouble like bottom beam levels showing scuff marks, and dents on storage rack uprights. The width of transfer aisles is likewise crucial as space must be allowed for trucks to turn safely and to pass.
- Inadequate Training – Forklift drivers must be professionally-trained and attend regular refresher courses. A common complaint by operators is that the aisles are too tight. It could be an issue, but there are many cases where an operators’ lack of ability due to improper training is the culprit. Driver training should include raising awareness on the consequences of damage to racking components and the disastrous results of a rack collapse. Management must be on board with training and should treat forklift operators as skilled workers.
- Clutter – It’ important to be tidy. Clutter can be a major contributor to rack damage because it limits maneuverability in an already confined space. Obstructions reduce visibility and limit the operator’s options. If a driver needs to swerve to avoid a pallet or trash receptacle, it could lead to impact with a rack.
- Unsafe Speed - Enforce forklift speed. The maximum speed with no pedestrians present is 8 miles per hour, and near pedestrians, it should be no faster than 3 MPH.  Lower speed operations should also apply to pallet rack areas. Likewise, reduced-speed areas should include aisles, near corners or within rack tunnels.
- Poor Floor Conditions – Is your facilities’ floor in good condition? Are there cracks or holes? Operating on uneven surfaces can affect forklift performance leading to unnecessary contact with racking.
So now that we have reviewed some common causes of forklift impact to racking, what are some steps that you can take to minimize repeated damage? Keep in mind that protecting this critical part of your facilities’ infrastructure will pay in the long run.
- Evaluate aisles and passageways. OSHA standard 1910.176 states; where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient, safe clearances have to be allowed for aisles, at loading docks, through doorways and wherever turns or passage must be made. Aisles and passageways must be kept clear and in good repair, with no obstruction across or in aisles that could create a hazard. All permanent aisles and passageways must be appropriately marked. Clearance signs to warn of clearance limits must be provided.  Be sure to keep isles tidy, and the flooring clean and in good repair
- Keep up with your operator training. It’s important to note that continued training is a requirement. An evaluation of each powered industrial truck operator's performance is required to be conducted after initial training, after refresher training, and at least once every three years. Refresher training must be provided under various conditions involving safety and changes in the workplace. Forklift operator training is covered by OSHA standard. 1910.178(l). 
- Install rack protection. Guards are an inexpensive and easy way to protect your racking structure. End frames and corner columns are the most vulnerable to contact. Different types of guards (floor-mounted, low-profile, build-a-rail, and corner guards) will secure the areas most at risk. Evaluate what is best for your operation. Take a look at the areas with potential for the most frequent forklift impact. And then put together a plan of protection that will secure those points.
At Action Lift, we carry a full-line of Allied Warehouse Products that can help you with your racking protection and more. Our convenient online catalog features quality material handling and industrial supplies for all your needs. For more information Contact us or call 570.655.2100.
- 1. http://www.werc.org/assets/1/workflow_staging/Publications/414.PDF
- 2. https://www.safety.rochester.edu/ih/pit/pdf/pittrain.pdf
- 3. https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=standards&p_id=9824
- 4. https://www.osha.gov/dte/library/pit/pit_q-a.html