How to Keep Your Warehouse Safe During the Holiday Season and Beyond

The holiday season is here and life begins moving at a frantic pace. For people not involved in any form of material handling, this means rushing about to find the right gift, putting up holiday decorations more impressive than the neighbors’, controlling the excitement level of our children and still carving out a few minutes to maintain our sanity. Whew!

However, a person involved in material handling has all that and more. Most warehouses are moving at a breakneck pace to ensure on-time delivery of products in time for the holidays. Meeting deadlines, checking lists twice (or more), making sure order fulfillment is correct is typical in a warehouse. But the speed and intensity ramp up this time of year, increasing the probability of accidents.

Make sure your rack system does not contribute to the risk of warehouse mishaps. Accidents involving pallet racks are among the most common sources of injury in warehouses. While among the most common, pallet rack accidents also rank among the most preventable. Here’s a helpful approach to keep your warehouse and employees safe this holiday season.

1. Start with the right storage rack

There’s a reason manufacturers build multiple styles of rack equipment: each has a specific purpose. What products are going on a rack? What are its dimensions and weight? How is the weight distributed? Does the inventory turn quickly?

These questions help determine the type of rack system you should use. However, the proper rack is only part of the equation. The warehouse must have the space to accommodate the rack, product and the vehicle used to move the product from the warehouse to shipping. Failure to consider any of these increases accident potential.

2. Keep employees safe by helping them understand rack safety

One of the best means of maintaining a safe warehouse is having employees trained in rack safety. That means helping them understand best practices for loading/unloading items from a rack. Make sure they know load tolerances, how to identify damage to racks and assuming responsibility for reporting damage.

Most damage to pallet racks comes from forklifts and their operators. These employees are the heart of the operation as they keep products moving. Still, and particularly during the holiday season, forklift operators rush to meet deadlines. This translates into damage from hitting or backing into racks. As result, operators need extensive training, familiarity with the layout of the warehouse and incentives drivers can achieve without sacrificing safe driving.

3. Pay attention to rack maintenance

Pallet racks, once assembled, are impressive metal structures, able to hold a significant amount of products. This does not mean that pallet racks can withstand abuse along with everyday wear and tear. The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) recommends a regular inspection of racks by a qualified professional. A regular inspection varies by the condition of use. However, RMI advises inspections to take place annually at a minimum.

4. There are consequences to improper rack adjustments

Finished rack installations are the result of a careful design. Making haphazard beam adjustments have the potential of turning a structurally sound design into a massive game of Jenga. Moving beams should only be done after consulting a professional experienced in rack design.

5. Act quickly when damage occurs

Inspect any rack system immediately when it has sustained damage. The fact it is still standing is not an indication of structural integrity. Only design engineers and/or installation professionals can fully determine whether the rack is safe. If needed, make repairs in accordance with ANSI/RMI MH16.12 specifications.

6. Protect your rack investment

All the training and awareness available, won’t prevent accidents from happening. The addition of bollards and guard railing help prevent contact between the forklift and the rack. Just make sure there is still enough room in the aisle for forklifts and other traffic to maneuver. Reinforcing the base of a rack with double columns also improves rack strength.

The Christmas holiday season is a busy time in many warehouses. However, the added busyness does not have to mean added risk. Protect your rack systems and your holiday season will be safe and productive.


January 16, 2017

I think it is important for anyone that works in the warehouse to know how to use any equipment, what to do in an emergency, how to prevent accidents, etc. Safety is of extreme importance. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

January 25, 2017

Excellent article, I totally agree that warehouse safety is so important and as you have pointed out training, investment and maintenance all goes towards this.

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