Rack Safety = Common Sense (which is sometimes not so common!)
June is National Safety Month and we’d like to focus this week on storage rack safety awareness. Rack systems are the foundation of modern warehousing – but any facility can turn into a safety nightmare without proper rack installation, maintenance and employee training. Maximizing rack safety requires a common-sense approach about rack equipment from both employees and employers. Let’s take a closer look.
Equipment – Safety Starts Here
A good place to start any discussion of rack safety is by focusing on the rack equipment itself. Some common-sense concepts to follow include:
- If adding new or additional equipment, design the initial rack system to match anticipated storage configuration and capacity loads. Then invest in a professional crew to install the racks correctly.
- Do not exceed the recommended load specifications. Overloading may cause a catastrophic failure. This is a severe safety issue and can get expensive very quickly.
- As warehousing needs change, the racking system might need changing too. To reduce risk, use a qualified engineer to reconfigure any existing system. It is false economy to rely upon amateur engineering.
- If a rack is damaged, repair it immediately. (Why is there always time to do it over but never enough time to do it right the first time?)
- Use only undamaged pallets. Some warehouses use pallets until they become dangerous, and useful only as firewood. It’s essential to inspect pallets for protruding nails, fractured planks, and missing support blocks.
- Use appropriate guardrail and safe-guarding products to protect employees and your equipment.
Employees – Making Safety a Priority Every Day
Over half a million Americans work in warehouses across the country, and all of them think “safety first” every minute of every day….Or not! Human nature being what it is, employees might occasionally be tempted to take shortcuts to save time or expend less effort. Unfortunately, every shortcut taken adds risk. Here are a few common-sense ways for employees to work safely around rack systems.
- Make sure that employees have been trained on using the proper motorized equipment. And when driving this equipment, leave the NASCAR mindset behind.
- The end of aisles should never be obstructed by staged pallets. This is exactly the kind of shortcut that can cause injuries and accidents.
- Make sure employees do not exceed rack capacity. Overloading a rack can have disastrous consequences and can be very expensive. Have proper capacity signs posted and highly visible.
- In many if not most warehouses, product is moved by muscle as well as machine. Proper technique must be used when lifting, lowering, filling, emptying, or carrying heavy objects. Ergonomic equipment and proper training can help ensure that employees do not become one of a million cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported in the U.S. each year, many of which are work-related.
Employers – Safety is an Investment (not a cost)
Professionally designed and installed racking and conscientious, engaged employees mean little if safety on the job is not continuously supported by management. Here are a few things employers can do to maintain a safe warehouse working environment.
- Make safety an integral part of every employee meeting.
- Post all legally required safety notices in the proper places. Note that though federal standards are consistent across the country, specific requirements vary from state to state.
- Make sure the entire facility is well-lit – even those storage bays way in the back containing product that doesn’t move fast.
- Make sure your employee training includes rack safety. This should include awareness of impact points on the sides of the bay, overhead, and any maneuvering limitations.
- Invest in regular rack storage system damage inspections. Collisions with equipment (like forklifts) are the most common cause of rack failure. Perform regular inspections to ensure that damaged racks are not used for storage. Repair or replace damaged racks promptly. A material handling expert will be able to identify what’s salvageable and what needs to be scrapped.
Rack Safety – It’s Just Common Sense
Legendary American humorist Will Rogers once said “Common sense ain’t common.” In the modern logistics industry, it’s easy to prove him wrong through efforts made to improve safety when working with rack systems. There are several resources available to help in these efforts, including the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI).
Finally – it’s important to remember that funds spent on rack safety and training can be considered an investment, not a cost. Why? As any lawyer will confirm, one liability claim can destroy a successful business that took years to build.
To speak with us directly, call us at 800-442-3061. Our storage design and rack safety experts are ready to assist you with any questions!