How to Inspect Pallet Racking

Pallet racking is sturdy, reliable, and made from durable materials. Even so, regular inspections are the key to keeping your warehouse operational, equipment in good working order, and, most importantly, employees safe.

If you’re purchasing used equipment, it’s a great first step to inspect racks and components before installation, after setup is complete, and periodically throughout the racking structures’ lifetime. It’s important to develop a systematic approach to inspection — one with repeatable steps that are clearly outlined and understood by individuals performing each inspection.

The proper inspection regimen can reduce the risk of potential dangers and costs of rack collapse, whether that’s from injury, product damage, legal liability, or even business disruption. To help your team better understand the ins and outs of this process, here is a quick guide on how to inspect pallet racking.

Key Areas to Inspect

There were a total of 5,486 fatal work injuries in 2022 across the U.S. While some of these incidents were unavoidable accidents, others were the result of poor racking safety and equipment inspection policies. As an employer, you are responsible for ensuring all equipment is safe and ready for the workday.

When it comes to the inspection of racking equipment, you need first to grasp the basic layout of components:

  • Uprights: Uprights are the framing portion of the racking structure. Varying in style, uprights accept the beam to form the basic racking system.
  • Beams: Beams run across the horizontal portion from upright to upright. They vary in style and correlate to the upright with a key-and-lock connector.
  • Decking and Other Components: Decking runs across beams to create the storage platform. Other components can include safety features and supports.

Let’s explore each component in further detail and better understand what to look for during inspection.

Uprights

Uprights are prone to lift truck collisions and other accidents. Since they support the weight of the racking structure, paying close attention to these components is essential. Here is what you need to know:

  • Bends, Dents, and Scrapes: While common, these can indicate potential damage. Pay close attention to areas near the base of the upright and connection points with beams, as these are more prone to forklift collisions.
  • Rust or Corrosion: Rust and corrosion weaken metal; it’s that simple. Look for flaking paint, pitting, or discoloration, especially in humid environments where the racking may have been exposed to the elements.
  • Vertical Alignment (Plumbness): Uprights should be perfectly vertical. Use a level to check for potential tilting or leaning. If you find they’re misaligned, that could be a sign of damage, improper installation, or floor issues.
  • Footplates and Anchor Bolts: Examine each footplate for bends, cracks, or signs of warping. Inspect anchor bolts to ensure they’re adequately secured and the footplate has no movement.

Beams

Beams running the racking system’s horizontal length are just as prone to forklift damage as uprights. Let’s explore the major factors to watch out for when inspecting beams:

  • Bends, Twists, and Dents: Any deformation should be noted. This can indicate potential overload or impact damage. These imperfections can compromise the structural integrity of the beam.
  • Deflection: While beams naturally flex under load, excessive or permanent deflection signifies a compromised beam. Use the guideline of no more than 1/180th of the beam length as a maximum acceptable deflection.
  • Connectors: Ensure all connectors are present, correctly installed, and in good condition. Check for missing or damaged parts, possible loose connections, and bent or deformed elements.
  • Load Capacity Markings: Ensure each beam’s Safe Working Load (SWL) is clearly displayed. Moreover, staff should be well aware and trained to understand and respect these limits.

Overall Racking System

When it comes to viewing the entire racking system as a whole, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Aisle Widths: Always ensure there is enough space in the aisles for the safe operation of lift truck equipment. 
  • Collision Protection: Column protectors are a good idea for high-traffic areas. They can absorb minor impacts and prevent damage to uprights.
  • Unauthorized Modifications: Look for any welds, additional components, or alterations that aren’t original to the rack structure. These modifications could weaken the system and need a professional assessment.

As with any other big purchase, going with a reputable equipment supplier is always a good idea. Working with a team like East Coast Storage Equipment will ensure you know exactly what you’re getting and are made aware of possible defects or other repair needs well ahead of time.

Best Practices for Inspection

So, that’s the basics of inspecting used pallet racking. But what else should you know to ensure that the inspection process goes smoothly and that you get the job done right every time? First, you need to stay consistent.

Regularity is necessary for in-house inspections, such as those done by your team. Depending on how often you use your equipment, this could mean daily, weekly, or monthly inspections. For example, if you have racking in a pick module that sees daily use, a more frequent inspection schedule might be necessary. 

In-house inspection can catch quite a bit but should not replace inspections from a qualified rack inspector. Many jurisdictions mandate regular professional inspections (annually or semi-annually). Consult with local code authorities or a rack safety expert for frequency recommendations.

Regularity is necessary for in-house inspections, such as those done by your team. Depending on how often you use your equipment, this could mean daily, weekly, or monthly inspections.

Here are a few other things you need to know regarding pallet racking inspections:

  • Documentation: Provide detailed inspection checklists to ensure consistency and thoroughness. You’ll also need to keep good records of each inspection, including dates, findings, and any possible repairs or replacements.
  • Training: Train all employees working near the racking to recognize the primary signs of damage (bent components, loose connectors, rust, etc.). Also, clear guidelines for reporting should be established, and all forklift operators should be adequately trained. 
  • Post-Incident Inspections: Even minor forklift contact should trigger a thorough inspection – damage may not always be immediately apparent.
  • Responsibility: Assign responsibility for conducting regular inspections and ensuring corrective actions are taken.

Addressing Damage

What should you or an inspector do if you see signs of damage during an inspection? First, take the system offline if you suspect any type of pallet racking damage. Even minor damage can require immediate removal. Unload any pallets and demarcate the affected area (flagging tape, caution signs, physical barriers) to prevent anyone from using it.

Once you have everything cleared off and marketed properly, see if you can isolate the damaged components. Next, secure them to prevent accidental reuse and consider whether you need to repair or replace the part.

Background

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Repair vs. Replacement

Before we begin, it’s important to note that repairs are a serious task. As such, you want to use professionals with experience working on storage and material handling equipment like pallet racks. Don’t attempt to assess damaged components’ repairability unless you are a qualified expert. Always consult with the rack manufacturer, a structural engineer, or a certified rack inspector.

To better understand whether you need to repair or replace, here are a few things to consider:

  • Damage Severity: Significant bends, deep gouges, extensive rust, or any damage near a connection point should be grounds for replacement.
  • Rack Type and Age: Racking type plays a role here. Some older racking styles might not have readily available parts, so keep that in mind when shopping and repairing equipment.
  • Cost: It should make sense to repair the component cost-wise. Consider not just the cost of materials but also the cost of labor.

Err or the side of safety. Remember that the cost of a potential rack collapse far outweighs the cost of a racking component replacement.

When to Seek Professional Inspection

So, there you have the basics of inspecting used pallet racking. While professional assistance is necessary during certain stages, like repairs, your team can manage a good portion of the inspection process in-house. Just make sure you take inspections seriously, do them regularly, keep staff trained, and document the process. This will ensure your team is working with safe and reliable equipment for years to come. Whether you need spare parts, assistance with installation, or a whole system upgrade, East Coast Storage Equipment is here to help. We’re the nation’s go-to supplier for all things material handling and storage. Get in touch today to learn more about our inventory and growing list of services.

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