If you use, or are responsible for storage racking, the risk of collapse may be higher than you think. There has been an increase in the number of racking collapses in recent years, resulting in severe or fatal injuries and subsequent prosecution.

To reduce the risk of collapse it is important that companies with racking are aware of the safe procedures that need to be followed.

These include ensuring that the racking has been correctly installed, regularly maintained and inspected, as well as safe day-to-day usage.

Information on the safe use, installation and maintenance of racking is usually found in the manufacturer’s operation and maintenance (O&M) manual. This information will help you to comply with the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, 1998 (PUWER).

The following are critical safe operating procedures:

•             All racking should be clearly marked with its safe operating load

•             All persons operating forklift trucks should be suitably trained

•             Any damage should be reported and promptly repaired, or the racking should be quarantined until repaired.

Strictly enforcing rules on safe driving, speed limits, observing floor markings are all critical to ensuring racking remains safe. Part of a fork lift truck driver’s operation procedure should be to work in a way that avoids damage to the frames while loading or unloading or working near the racking.

Removable column guards or guard-rails are options to prevent lift trucks getting too close to the racking structure. Corner uprights are especially exposed and therefore well worth protecting or painting a bright colour to make them highly visible.

Employees should be trained to keep the aisles between racking free from anything that may obstruct vehicles.  Pallet loads or debris will reduce the clearance for drivers, making it more likely they will collide with the surrounding frames. Good housekeeping not only helps to avoid slips trips and falls but also contributes to vehicle movement safety.

Racking should be inspected on a regular basis as recommended in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations. The inspection should be carried out in accordance with SEMA Guideline No. 6 – Guide to the Conduct of Pallet Racking and Shelving Surveys. The frequency of the inspections depends on a wide variety of factors that are particular to the operator’s site, but the first inspection is normally carried out within 6 months of the installation becoming operational and thereafter at a maximum of 12-month intervals, depending on the amount of damage sustained. Records of these inspections must be maintained.

It’s not just the condition of the racking that needs monitoring. The state of the pallets placed on the racks can also affect overall stability and safety, so these need checking too. You should have a system of reporting damaged pallets so they can be removed for repair or for disposal.