Protecting your pallet racking from damage
Reducing or eliminating the possibility of damage to pallet racking is one of the most important aspects of warehouse safety. There are a number of complimentary approaches you should adopt to minimise damage.
Racking inspection requirements.
Regular inspection of racking is essential. The inspection should follow a hierarchical approach using 3 levels of inspection as follows:-
1. Damage inspection by warehouse operatives
2. Weekly inspections as a visual check from ground level
3. Regular inspection at least once a year by a ‘technically competent' person
The Person responsible for racking safety (PRRS).
You should appoint a ‘competent person’ be responsible for racking safety (PRRS). The PRRS will then be responsible for coordinating the various aspects of rack safety i.e. ensuring that the racking is used, inspected and maintained in accordance with the appropriate regulations and guidelines.
This is unquestionably the most important factor in eliminating damage in the warehouse. You, the user, must ensure that the warehouse staff are trained in the appropriate use and just as importantly limitations of the storage equipment. It is the responsibility of the user to maintain the racking in a safe condition. Drivers of materials handling equipment should receiver regular training. We recommend a familiarisation programme for all new drivers. This firstly allows you to acquaint the driver with the controls and features of your particular truck since as with cars the modern trucks now have many ‘whistles and bells’ and your new driver is unlikely to be familiar with all of them. It also allows you to alert then to site specific conditions such areas with restricted headroom, one way systems, safety zones etc. In addition it also allows you to assess their capabilities – not all drivers are equal and a lot of damage can be caused while the new driver acquaints themselves with your storage racks! Many companies now put new drivers on ‘limited duties’ for a couple of weeks so they can be observed, or buddy them up with an experienced member of staff. Both methods have shown clear benefits in reducing damage.
Any damaged component noted in the inspection as requiring repair or replacement should be taken out of use in accordance with the damage code as dictated by the SEMA guidelines and repaired or replaced by suitably trained personnel as required.
The HSE document ‘HSG 76, Warehousing and storage, A guide to health and safety’ has a number of initiatives to minimise damage including the following sections on rack protection:
End frame protection is recommended for all end frames between a gangway and an aisle and also for all end frames between a drive through tunnel and an aisle in truck operated racking. Elsewhere you should conduct a risk assessment and act accordingly. also do beware of retrofitting rack protection which inevitably reduce operating clearances and may as a result lead to an increase in damage.
Where freestanding protection is fitted it should allow adequate clearance off the frame component. Fitted too close and it will restrict or prevent inspection of the concealed component, and also can lead to ‘knifing’ damage when the guard flexes under impact as some lighter duty guards are designed to do. SEMA guidelines recommend a minimum clearance of 25mm with 40-50mm being preferred. And don't skimp on the fixings and always use good heavy duty fixings otherwise you will be forever replacing them!
There are an increasing number of ‘clip on’ type guards that affix directly to the rack upright. There are a number of different types and designs and features but do beware that whilst offering the benefits of speed of fitting and their high visibility profile they also have significant drawbacks.
They require regular removal to allow for your weekly and annual inspections.
They can lull drivers into a sense of false security by believing regular impacts with the racks are not a problem.
They can conceal damage that would have otherwise been immediately apparent.
They are not really suitable for exposed corners of storage racks where freestanding guards are the only suitable option.
Clause 639: Where racking is likely to be struck by lift trucks and other vehicles, it should be protected. Generally, such damage is at the lower levels of the racking – use renewable column guards to minimise the risk of damage from accidental impact. Corner uprights in a run of racking are especially at risk and should be suitably provided with a protective device in a conspicuous colour.
640 Retrofitting upright protection devices to an existing aisle where they have never been provided can have the effect of reducing the available clearances for fork-lift truck manoeuvres, which can in some circumstances increase the amount of damage caused. Such situations need consideration on a case-by-case basis.
Unfortunately, clause 639 is being interpreted by many, especially some suppliers, as meaning that all racking uprights are likely to be hit and should therefore be protected by rack protectors and even that it’s the Law in the UK. This is not the correct interpretation of this clause.
Drivers must be reminded that guards and protection on racking are not to be used as positioning guides or back stops. Drivers must always leave clearance between pallet and guard.
Rack protection should be regarded as a ‘last resort’ means of avoiding rack damage and other methods of damage prevention should be considered before taking the decision to use rack protectors.
The protection of storage racks is not just dependant on physical protection, but also relies on a number of items including:
The design of the system
The defined responsibilities of the person responsible for racking safety
The training of the operatives
The inspection procedure
The maintenance procedure
Items to be considered should include:
The type of damage to be protected against
Whether other methods of protection are more appropriate
The type of protector required
Whether the protector will reduce clearances, potentially leading to more damage
Whether the protector may hide potentially serious damage
Whether the protector may lead to less reporting of damage
Whether the protector may result in operatives using the protector as a buffer
Where physical protection is considered it is vital to ensure that is is effective and appropriate and not just a sticking plaster approach that may lead to other problems further down the line.
HSG 76: Warehousing and storage: A guide to health and safety
This is an excellent guide to best warehousing practice. It is written in conjunction with the Warehousing Health and Safety Forum - a joint committee with representation from trade unions, trade associations and employer bodies. Though in parts specific to specialist sites (eg temperature-controlled or dangerous substance storage) the majority of the book's focus applies right across the sector regardless of facility or size.
Many special attention topics, such as manual handling, musculoskeletal awareness, mechanical handling, site transport and working at height plus more, are covered in detail but the broader emphasis is on responsible warehouse practices, general prevention of avoidable risks and hazards and attendant information of accident and emergency procedures.
One of its key benfits is the HSE logo on the front which carries a lot of weight. Managers and directors are far more inclined to accept guidance form this source which is generally highly regarded and seen as 'neutral' in such matters
Content of a Racking Inspection report
All inspection reports are completed in accordance with SEMA guidelines. Each rack inspection report is tailored to the individual application but typically comprises of two parts. Firstly a damage report which records all damage found according to the SEMA damage recording codes and also an inspection report which deals in depth with the various issues picked up in the inspection along with relevant supporting detail and references.
What's in the Damage report?
The damage report details all damage recorded by location. The report also provides damage summaries by component type and SEMA risk type i.e. red, amber and green. This allows you to prioritise remedial actions. It will also include a copy of any red risk notices issued on site. For reference it will also include a layout diagram and key component summaries.
Damage recorded by location
Damage summaries by SEMA damage code and type allowing:
Identification of urgent issues
Prioritisation of remedial action
Red risk notices for serious defects requiring immediate action
What's in the Inspection report?
The inspection report starts with an introductory cover and details the basis for the inspection identifying what is and also what is not covered by the inspection. It then highlights key issues requiring action and damage summaries and then moves on to covers in detail points noted in the inspection. It concludes with appendices containing reference material and technical notes relevant to the inspection along with contact details for relevant bodies i.e. SEMA & HSE.
General introduction and basis of inspection
Discussion of important issues noted during the inspection
Notes on any other relevant issues noted during the inspection
Comprehensive appendices providing:
(a) Essential reference material and technical notes
(b) Guidance on 'Best Practice'
(c) Advice on general warehousing issues