Many industries and businesses have warehouse racking (or shelving) systems to store inventory, product, and materials. It’s a great way to utilize the space you have available, and to keep things organized. However, with everything stacked so high, your employees are at risk of catastrophic injury or even death, should the system fail.

The most common hazard with racking systems is the risk of collapse. One damaged component, potentially caused by overloading the rack or repeated bumps from a forklift, and the whole thing can come crashing down, dumping your inventory all over the place and trapping workers underneath.

If one racking system fails, there’s a chance it will fall forward into other units creating a domino effect that poses an even greater threat to your employees.

What your employees need to know

Damage to the system isn’t always obvious. Items placed on the rack could hide some problem areas, or a single bump from a forklift might not cause an accident right away. However, over time, the weight of the inventory stored and additional forklift collisions can cause more stress to the damaged area, increasing the likelihood of a collapse.

What your employees need to do

As the employer, you should conduct a full evaluation of your racking systems at least twice a year.

In the interim, you want your employees to always be on the lookout for obvious damage such as dents, bent shelves, bent or cracked posts, or other similar deficiencies.

Your workers should also do the following:

  • Report any damage as soon as it’s identified.
  • Never exceed weight limits specified in the operations manual.
  • Use extreme caution when operating a forklift or pallet jack.
  • Never operate a forklift or pallet jack without proper training and certification.
  • Forklift operators should report any bumps, pokes, or other contact with the racks, no matter how small. You, the employer, then determine if damage has occurred.

At your safety meeting

Review the operations manual that comes with the racking systems, so employees know the weight limits and stacking instructions. Make sure they know where to find the manual for future reference.

Take the time to go over the racking structure and identify all the components and demonstrate the types of damage they should be looking for.

Other items to discuss include:

  • Explaining the proper procedure for reporting any incidents where damage was caused, or any damage detected during a visual inspection.
  • Showing your employees how to load and unload materials correctly on the racks.
  • Demonstrating the proper method of storing materials on the racks, and how to evenly distribute weight.
  • Discussing the required training for forklift operators and when that is available.
  • Reviewing your emergency response plan and discuss with your crew how to execute it.

By training your workers on what to look for, you have extra sets of eyes on hand to help identify signs of possible trouble.

You can then act quickly to address that trouble before things come crashing to the ground.

The above evaluations and/or recommendations are for general guidance only and should not be relied upon for medical advice or legal compliance purposes. They are based solely on the information provided to us and relate only to those conditions specifically discussed. We do not make any warranty, expressed or implied, that your workplace is safe or healthful or that it complies with all laws, regulations or standards.