Five ways to prevent racking failure and injuries

by Norm Kramer

Steel storage racks need to be inspected and maintained on a regular basis to prevent racking collapse and product falling, with potential catastrophic consequences, such as critical injuries and fatalities, financial penalties, and product losses. Racking collapses have occurred more often than people may realize.

Norm Kramer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional who provides health &
safety consulting
services for WSPS as
a Warehouse Specialist.

To prevent racking failure, supervisors, joint health and safety committees (JHSC) and maintenance staff need to have a comprehensive understanding of the importance of each racking component, what damage looks like, what makes a load unstable and the capacity of the structure.

One of the best tools to develop this understanding is CSA A344:24, User guide for steel storage racks, released in 2024. Having a working knowledge of this guide is an integral part of becoming competent to complete racking inspections.

Occupational health and safety laws across Canada, both provincial and federal, place a legal duty on employers to ensure that workplace inspections, which include storage racks, are carried out on a regular basis, often monthly. Many companies choose to inspect more frequently due to the high volume of pallet movement and extensive mobile equipment traffic within their workplace. A more in-depth inspection should also be carried out once a year.

About the guide

Among other things, the CSA guideline provides detail on:

  • the components of racking
  • the use of racking
  • modifications to racking
  • the assessment of damage and deficiencies
  • types of corrective actions you can take

This is the third edition of CSA A344, replacing the previous edition published in 2017. The CSA working group has enhanced this edition to make it more reader-friendly and easier to find pertinent information and answers to your questions. Photos and illustrations have been updated to provide clearer and more accurate visual interpretation of the technical content.

How the guide can help you

Each component of a rack (in proper position) plays an essential role in allowing the rack to support the weight it was designed for. The overall strength of the rack depends on each component maintaining its original shape; once you change the shape, you change the strength. Therefore, damaged or out of position components must be identified and corrected.

The guideline can help companies prevent racking collapses and injuries by teaching workplaces inspectors to:

1. Identify parts of the rack and recognize the types of damage that can occur. When inspecting racking, take the time to be thorough. From row end protectors and cross aisle ties to diagonal and horizontal braces, each part contributes to the stability and strength of the entire rack. Damage to something even as small as a beam connector locking device may cause an entire beam to become dislodged, weakening the entire structure.

2. Understand how damage occurs, and its impact. Most damage occurs at the bottom five feet of the rack when it is inadvertently struck by lift trucks. This may occur when an operator turns into racking with an obstructed view or the aisle space is too narrow for the turning radius of the lift truck. Racking inspectors need to consider why damage occurs so they can address the root cause. The CSA guide teaches your employees how to measure damage with input from professionals, and stresses the importance of prompt and timely corrective action.

3. Recognize why it’s important for workers to report racking damage and near misses. Encouraging all workers to report damage and near misses allows the company to take corrective action before an injury occurs. Employers need to create a comfortable workplace culture for them to do this. If employees think they will get disciplined as soon as they report an incident, they will be less likely to report. Thank those who come forward, and use it as a learning opportunity for other employees during a pre-shift meeting or safety talk.

4. Understand how modifications can undermine the racking structure. Changes to the rack structure can have strong safety implications. For example, it is common to move the lower beam up from the recommended position to store bulky items; however, this may affect the capacity of the rack. Part of the inspection process involves identifying and documenting any alterations to the original load application and rack configuration drawings (LARC), if these exist. Unnecessary modifications, when combined with damage, can considerably weaken the structure. There may be legitimate reasons for modifying racks, and the guideline explains how this can be completed safely without affecting the integrity of the entire pallet rack.

5. Understand the purpose of a more detailed, yearly, inspection. Whether this is carried out in-house or using outside experts, the goal is to look for hidden hazards that may not be visible during monthly inspections. This may require moving some pallets or even inspecting at higher elevations. These more detailed inspections may also review the quality of previous monthly inspections.