Safety First: Keeping product safely on the racks

by Norm Kramer
Norm Kramer is a Canadian Registered Safety Professional
with over 25 years’ experience. Norm
provides expert,
in-depth health &
safety consulting
services for WSPS as
a Warehouse Specialist
in the GTA region.

While having your steel storage racks collapse into an intertwined mess of twisted steel, damaged product and potential employee injuries may be a rare occurrence, having product fall due to poor storage practices is unfortunately not. Misplaced and poorly stored product is a common recurring hazard tied directly to poor storage practices.

Developing improved storage practices

The two main risks that warehouse businesses face are their racking structure collapsing and product falling. There are a number of control methods to prevent racking collapse. They include:

  • Row-end guards;
  • Bull-nose guards;
  • Post guards;
  • Double posting;
  • Wrap-around guards;
  • Guardrails;
  • Bollards; and
  • Heavy-duty base plates and anchors.

All of these various controls are designed to be an integral part of the racking structure. We have seen companies spend thousands of dollars on brand new racking structures, only to see them battered and dented within a short period of time.

Why does this happen? Because there was a lack of planning. Controls to consider might include ensuring appropriate guarding at the ends of rows where there is a steady flow of vehicle traffic turning sharp corners. If an appropriate guard is installed that provides a separation between itself and the racking, the guard will be what gets struck and the racking structure will remain fully intact.

The more common hazard of falling product can also often be mitigated with a variety of design controls including: Pallet safety bars; vertical netting to protect walkways; back-stop beams; back-stop vertical members; overhead protection tunnels; and taller frame at row ends.

Other factors that can contribute to the risk of product falling are how loads are placed and positioned on the pallet. For example, loads that are leaning to one side, protruding past the pallet edge or bulging from the centre of the pallet all increase your risk.

Another common practice increasing the risk of product falling is the way the load is placed and positioned on the racking structure. Have you ever noticed at your workplace that pallet loads are placed too far back on the beam structure? In addition to increasing the risk of product falling, you are blocking your flue space, which may inhibit water from flowing downward, a requirement in many fire codes today. You now also have a risk of the pallet being placed in the racking structure behind this pallet making contact, causing the entire load to fall.

The opposite can also occur, with the pallet placed so that it is barely touching the back beam, resulting in excessive pallet overhang in the front of the beam. What’s the problem with this storage practice? Now you now have a situation where a pallet load being raised by lift truck forks can potentially make contact with the overhanging pallet and may result in dislodging the entire pallet load.

Just one more scenario where product may fall arises when there is minimal space between the top of the pallet load and beam above. What can happen? The lift truck lifts the load upwards, it strikes the beam, damages the product and now the load on the beam above has a greater risk of falling.

What can help?

A critical support for any business to reduce the risk of racking collapse and product falls is the new CSA 344-17, User Guide to Steel Storage Racks. This new guide recently replaced the CSA Standard A344.1-05/A344.2-05 – User Guide for Steel Storage Racks/Standard for the Design and Construction of Steel Storage Racks.

All of the situations described above that can cause loads to fall are nicely illustrated in the CSA User Guide. One of the first things you will notice when you open it compared to the prior version is the many illustrations in the new version. Most of us like to learn by both looking at pictures and reading supporting text and the new CSA guide incorporates these illustrations throughout the publication, providing clear and insightful information on design controls to protect racking, proper load placements and unsafe load conditions. These illustrations make it easy for your inspectors to know what to look for when performing their monthly inspections. The new CSA user guide packs a powerful punch of technical information in relatively few pages due to the rich graphics that it contains.

The new CSA User Guide makes it easy to understand the options available to protect your racking. It provides an essential first-step in ensuring your racking is safe, well maintained, properly used and inspected.