Is your racking safe?

Warehouses are often the Cinderellas of the safety world. With exception to high value fork lift machinery, they lack the glamour of major hazard plant. Their potential to cause death or serious injury to those working in them is apparently so mundane as to be frequently ignored.

The bulk of incidents/accidents are attributable to damaged, faulty racking and overloaded racking. Over a series of posts we will be having a look at some of the main danger points. Beginning with:

Poor attitude to racking and acceptance of damage

In many sites there seems to be a complete disregard to damage.  Operators never report accidents and Managers look the other way when they do occur.

When racking damage is pointed out the most common remark is usually “Well it’s been like that for ages and it has not fallen down yet”.

Damage to racking components however slight will reduce the overall load carrying capacity of the racking. Progressive damage will weaken the structure until it can no longer support its working load and eventually the racking will collapse.

It is very difficult to foretell exactly when damaged racking will fail, sometimes it is immediate and sometimes it takes months of cumulative damage. Damaged components can be likened to “mini time bombs” waiting to go off at any moment.

Most people within warehousing have either witnessed an incident first hand or have been told of incidents by others. Remarkably, despite the very serious consequences of a racking collapse, there seems to be a humour related to collision damage akin to fairground bumper cars.

In some warehouses it is not uncommon to hear a cheer go up and horns being sounded when an operator collides with the racking. Then after the fun is over everybody resumes their work and the damaged racking goes unreported and even worse it remains in service.

Fortunately not all warehouses are like this, some companies take their responsibilities very seriously.  Best practice requires all accidents to be reported immediately. Then the racking is checked for damage and taken out of service straight away if deemed necessary. 

Responsible companies carry out their own internal racking audits, procure the services of a technically competent inspector on a yearly basis and ensure that they do not overload their racking by having accurate signage fitted to their racks.  Not SWL or UDL type stickers but industry code of practice load data signs known as load notices which have been accurately calculated by professionals.  Companies that follow this template of  measures will go a long way towards answering the question with  “Yes, our racking is indeed safe”.