Tips for Maintaining Warehouse Rack Safety and Compliance
It’s important to create safe working conditions no matter what type of workplace you’re a part of. Whether you manage a grocery store, a greenhouse, a school or a heavy-duty construction site, one of your jobs is to make sure everyone who sets foot on-site stays as safe as possible.
Although there’s always the possibility of abnormal circumstances outside your control, it’s essential that each of us realizes just how much we can control. By taking responsibility for the conditions on your work site, you have the power to greatly reduce the possibility for accidents and injury among your workers.
While safety is important on every work site, it’s no secret that some workplaces present higher safety risks than others. Warehouses and manufacturing sites, for instance, are more likely to be the sites of accidents than a financial office. As a result, warehouses and similar locations are subject to higher numbers of rules and regulations, all designed to keep the people working on those sites safe.
And as important as it is to follow these guidelines, there’s often so much more you and your workplace could be doing to curate the safety of your employees. Today, we want to focus on safety tips for one specific area of your site — warehouse rack safety. We’ll talk regulations, safety compliance and additional tips that you can follow to go the extra step toward providing a safe working environment for everyone involved.
The Importance of Warehouse Rack Safety Compliance
Some people may see safety regulations as just another item to check off a list. After all, the average worker is simply trying to complete their day’s tasks, and some days, regulations can cause their jobs to be a little more complicated than they otherwise would be. It’s little wonder that this concern can sometimes feel like just another item on a checklist.
Yet consider the purpose of these regulations. Large racks piled high with bulky goods is a situation in which accidents could occur with minimal prompting. With no guidelines in place, every warehouse could store items on racks however they chose. Even though most warehouses would likely be responsible and perform this work safely, a lack of rules means that if a business wanted to cut corners and endanger their workers in the process, there would be no one to stop it.
While no regulations can prevent 100% of accidents, these rules exist to prevent as many accidents as possible and make sure most people stay safe. As a warehouse manager, you have several excellent motivations for complying with OSHA regulations for warehouse racks. Doing so will help you:
- Avoid fines and penalties: OSHA will fine businesses if they discover these workplaces to be out of compliance with regulations. Perhaps these workplaces installed their racks improperly, or they chose to add unsafe modifications. Whatever the problem may be, OSHA will not hesitate to issue a fine, leading to direct financial consequences for failing to recognize important safety protocols.
- Keep people and products safe: Pallet rack safety exists for a reason — to keep people safe. As a manager who’s responsible for your employees, you should know that this goal is an important one in and of itself. It’s your job to keep your employees from harm, as much as possible, and regulations will help you do so.
- Prevent financial loss: When accidents happen and employees injure themselves, both money and productivity are lost as these workers take time to recover. In some cases, you may even be called upon to provide compensation for accidents that occurred in the workplace, making for further financial losses. By simply following safety guidelines, you can gain a good chance of avoiding these types of damages altogether.
Warehouse Rack Storage Regulations
We’ve talked about the importance of following warehouse racking safety guidelines, but following those rules will be difficult without first understanding what they are. The good news is that OSHA’s regulations for warehouse racks are minimal. In fact, they have very little to say on the subject. There are only two subjects on which they offer guidance:
- Storing materials safely: OSHA 1910.176 stipulates that materials must be stacked and piled in such a way that they’re in no danger of falling or sliding. Furthermore, they may not be stacked so high that they become unstable.
- Maintaining sprinkler clearance: Every warehouse must be equipped with an adequate sprinkler system, and part of this setup means creating a proper clearance space around those sprinklers. According to OSHA 1910.159, this rule means establishing clearance of at least 18 inches between the sprinklers and any materials stacked on racks beneath them.
While the above are the guidelines as written in OSHA’s regulations, there are not many specifics, leaving a bit of room for interpretation. As a result, OSHA may potentially fine companies for such non-compliances as:
- Improper installation
- Continued usage of damaged racking
- Performance of unsafe modifications
- Failure to post rack capacities
While OSHA may not make mention of these issues specifically, all of them would fall under the category of storing materials unsafely and are grounds for penalties.
Tips for Maintaining Warehouse Rack Safety and Compliance
We now have a greater understanding of how important it is to comply with warehouse rack safety regulations — as well as an understanding of what those regulations are. It’s time for the next important question: How can you better stay within the boundaries of these guidelines? What steps can you take to make your warehouse and racks a little better and safer?
The best place to start is making sure you’re following the very letter of OSHA’s regulations. There’s much more you can do beyond this step, however. Once you’re sure you’re in compliance with the basic regulations, try out a few tips and see the difference they make in safety levels at your warehouse.
1. Encourage Open Communication
A workplace in which everyone feels free to communicate concerns as they arise is a safe workplace. As a manager, it’s your job to point out the major safety risks your employees should always be aware of. Since you can’t be everywhere all the time, you should always remember to share your potential concerns with your employees. That way, they feel empowered to report any problems they notice.
When your employees file reports, you should nurture an environment of openness and honest communication by following up on their concerns and either making the necessary changes or confirming that everything is in order. If you do, everyone will feel that their concerns are valued, and even potential threats will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.
2. Provide Consistent Training
As old employees eventually leave and new employees arrive, it can sometimes be difficult to ensure that everyone receives the same basic training. It isn’t unheard of for one or two people to slip through the cracks and never receive a few important training sessions, such as ones including critical information on warehouse safety procedures.
This issue may not seem like a big deal at the time, but consider a situation where one of these employees is in a position to notice a major safety hazard. They might be the only one with the chance to report the issue, but since they didn’t receive the training, they may not even recognize the hazard for what it is.
Avoid these scenarios by establishing a training plan that will ensure every employee has access to the same information and training sessions. It may even be wise to hold refresher sessions every so often so that even if someone did somehow miss their on-boarding training, they could catch up with other sessions.
3. Place Visual Reminders
Sometimes, there’s a wide gulf between the information we know in the back of our mind and the things we do in our everyday life. For example, you might explain during the initial training process that employees should not load palettes beyond a certain capacity, but by the time an employee has worked for years, the information may be buried so deep that it’s as good as forgotten. They may not even pause to think about it, and they could instead continue loading the pallets the same way they’ve always done.
Providing visual reminders is an excellent way to bring crucial safety guidelines to the forefront of people’s minds. By posting signs, placards, warnings and appropriate symbols in strategic locations around your warehouse, you can help remind your employees and even yourself of critical facts and tips at the moment when they’ll be most helpful. For instance, you might post a placard on every rack to remind workers of its intended capacity. Or you might post a sign on the wall, instructing that materials must not be piled any higher than that sign.
In this way, you can help jog team members’ memories of the most important information.
4. Appoint Safety Managers
Depending on the size of your warehouse and the number of employees working there, it may be wise to appoint a dedicated safety manager or two. This person will have the task of knowing every safety protocol inside and out and making sure your warehouse is following all regulations. Every time your warehouse makes a new adjustment or installs a new piece of equipment, the changes should go past your safety manager, who can verify their compatibility with safety guidelines.
Appointing a safety manager will also take responsibilities off your shoulders as a manager. This way, when employees come forward with safety concerns they’ve noticed, there’s no risk of those concerns falling to the wayside because you were too busy to address them. Now, there’s an employee whose whole job revolves around such concerns. Even if this employee is around only part-time, they can still work wonders to elevate the safety of a site.
5. Perform Frequent Rack Inspections
Why wait for the safety concerns to come to you? By the time a problem has grown large enough for someone to notice it, it may be too late to perform a quick fix. As a result, you may need to replace the entire system — and if someone had caught the problem earlier, you might have salvaged it. The best way to sidestep this scenario? Perform frequent inspections.
If you’ve hired a safety manager, this task can be one for their workload, or, if you prefer, you can perform inspections yourself. Either way, we recommend completing them on a regular basis, such as once a month. Check that everything still seems sturdy and that no one has loaded the racks beyond their capacity. Make sure everything looks as it should, and if you do notice any abnormalities, be sure to address them right away.
6. Follow up With Regular Warehouse Rack Maintenance
No warehouse racking systems will last forever, but they’ll last for an even shorter amount of time without a little help. Problems will inevitably come up, and whether you discover them through an employee tip or an official annual safety rack inspection, it’s important to address them when they arise. Doing so usually requires rack maintenance.
In many cases, it’s better to call in help from the company that sold the racks in the first place, as they will be the ones best equipped to address any instances of wear and tear that have arisen since. You can perhaps fix some very small issues yourself, but any significant maintenance is best left to the professionals.
Warehouse Rack Inspection and Maintenance Checklist
Are you setting your regular pallet rack inspections up now? If this practice is a new one that you’re beginning to institute and you aren’t sure what to look for yet, we’ll give you a terrific place to start. Keep a sharp eye out for the following issues as you complete your inspection.
- Column damage
- Diagonal and horizontal strut damage
- Overloaded frames or beams
- Missing components
- Leaning frames
- Damaged decking
- Improper anchoring
- Improperly aligned racks
- Racks overloaded beyond capacity
- Items improperly stacked
- Aisles cluttered around the racks
The basic idea of your inspection is simple. The goal is to take a quick look at your racks — although it should be a more in-depth look at least once a year — and check for things that seem wrong. Notice anything that seems improperly attached or that looks to be bowing, bending or breaking. Finally, don’t forget to check that the shelves themselves are within compliance and not overloaded beyond their capacity.
Keep Your Warehouse Safe With Our Racking Solutions
The best way to keep your warehouse safe is to start off on the right foot by choosing Summit Storage Solutions and our racking options. Our precise designs are just what you need whether you’re in the market for storage or shipping solutions, and our ability to customize means you can choose the design that’s exactly right for you.
We do more than sell racking solutions too. We also offer maintenance services on the racks we sell, meaning that even if you bought from us years ago and are just now beginning to experience some wear and tear, we’ll be happy to step in and perform some maintenance for you.