While it may not be the YouTube sensation the likes of PSY’s Gangnam Style, the two-minute video of a rack collapse in a Russian vodka warehouse has been watched by thousands after it was posted online in 2009. What happened that day was every warehouse operator’s worst nightmare. Within seconds the warehouse was turned into a wreck by one simple act – a forklift operator reversing into the edge of a large pallet rack. As racks collapsed into racks, the warehouse was turned into an unholy mess with the driver buried underneath the rubble.
Rack collapse has occurred in less spectacular fashion across the region in warehouses from storing of fast moving consumer goods to spare parts. What are the causes? How can we take preventive measures? As installations become increasingly higher and larger, it has become even more important for us to understand the causes and take preventive measures as the repercussions of a rack system failure are very serious, with the risk of personal injury or even death both for the warehouse operators as well as their customers.
Nipping Problem in the Bud
The good news is that most rack failures are preventable. Properly designed, installed and maintained they can withstand even earthquakes. By addressing the contributing factors of rack failures, we can forestall them. Here are some of the factors:
Configuration. Is the configuration of the racking system suitable for the products stored within the warehouse? Those storing heavy loads like liquids may need a bolted or structural rack rather than standard hooking connection. Seek professional assistance if you aren’t sure.
Altered configuration. Never alter the racking in any way without checking with the supplier. Even simple relocation of beam levels can alter the rack’s stability.
Proper storage. Overloading the rack system beyond its engineered weight capacity can result in component failure. For mixed loads, the heaviest loads should be stowed in the lower bays or on the floor and the lightest pallets in high bays.
Mixed components from different manufacturers. A combination of components from different manufacturers should never be considered as there is no possible form of any rack system compliance.
Substitute components. Go for the original as using substitute components can be dangerous and may render all other measures of prevention invalid.
Damages. As damages can compromise the entire system, inspect for damages regularly. Establish a rack maintenance and reporting system, it will save you untold headaches. Most reputable racking suppliers will offer a Rack Maintenance program
Driver training. Since racking installations usually collapse when a forklift makes contact with the rack upright or the beam, improved driver training to help to avert accidents from happening.
Use of rack protectors. Chances of a forklift reversing into the pallet racks on a day to day operation are high. Pallet racks are not designed to withstand multiple forklift impacts. Even low-speed collisions can lead to structural damage. Consider using rack protectors to prevent the chances of rack collapse due to damage from forklift impacts.
Use of reliable suppliers. Ensure that the supplier chosen is reliable and products are certified by recognised bodies. Check for certifications like EN, FEM, AS, etc.
Seismic protection requirement? If the location of your warehouse is prone to earthquakes, you might want to check for suppliers who can offer seismic protection racks to minimise damages in the event when the actual earthquake strikes.
Take decisive measures today and avoid ruin from rack failures. The cost of preventing an accident is far less than the cost of remedying the situation after a rack collapse has occurred.