Would you know if you were overloading your racking?

Like a rusty old railway line, damaged by the sun and overloaded trains, perhaps your racking system can no longer carry what you think it can. The racking in your warehouse may have always just have been there, or maybe it is a new system that you had installed only a few years ago. Wherever it came from, are you sure it can carry the load you are putting on it? For most infrastructure maintenance managers or warehouse managers, this is a simple, yes answer.

But give it a bit more thought.

Has your stock profile changed over the years, or did it just make sense to lift the first beam and put the higher pallets on the floor? You see, many factors that impact the safe carrying capacity of your racking system are often overlooked.

Supply Network Africa met with Cullem McKay, sales director of ROS International Rack Repair SA, to try to unwrap what makes racking unsafe and what can we do to ensure the safety of our workplace.

At the forefront of rack maintenance, modification, and installation in South Africa, ROS International looks at the seemingly innocent task of adjusting the racking beam levels.

Implications of adjusting the beam levels of your racking

A seemingly innocent task such and moving a beam level up to make way for a higher pallet can have far-reaching consequences to the overall carrying capacity of your system. By moving the beams further apart, the system’s carrying capacity is reduced. 

This is clearly evidenced in the below example:

A typical 1.9 mm thick bottleneck frame with spacing between beams of 1 600 mm can carry about 8 400 kgs. If you move the beams further apart by as little as 300 mm to 1 900 mm, the carrying capacity reduces to about 6 830 kgs. This is a loss of more than 20% of its original capacity. Combine this with the fact that the system has four beam levels to the height supporting two pallets of 1 000 kgs each. Initially, the system is safe as the capable capacity is 8 400 kgs, and the actual loaded capacity is only 8 000 kgs. When you move the beams apart, the actual pallet weight may have increased due to the higher pallet, but let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the pallet weight remains 1 000 kgs. You would still be loading 8 000 kgs on the rack, except now it can only safely support 6 830 kgs. The system is dangerously overloaded and runs the risk of collapse.

Always ensure you appoint an adequately trained rack technician to make any modifications to your system. They are not only trained to safely modify the system but also calculate the ramifications of the alteration.

Additional things to consider when trying to identify if your racking is safe or not:

Does my racking have safe workload signs fitted?

It is a health and safety regulation that all racking must be fitted with valid safety signs clearly confirming the carrying capacity that the racking can support.

Is my racking certified?

Has your racking been inspected by an accredited rack inspector to confirm the condition of the rack, specification and carrying capacity within the last 12 months?

Is my racking still under guarantee, or has it expired?

New racking systems installed come with a manufacturer’s warranty. This certificate should be presented on the system sign-off and contain confirmation of the racking system’s carrying capacity. Keep in mind that should the installation be modified in any way by a party not authorised to do so, it may lead to the rack warranty becoming void.

When last was your racking correctly inspected and repaired?

Forklift drivers are going to, at some point, bump your racking. It is good practice to enter into a service level agreement with a professional rack repair company, where they will inspect the racking on at least a quarterly basis, repair as required, and ensure the racking system’s safety is not compromised.  The same team can confirm the implications of any adjustments to the racking and complete the work in line with European Standards.

Considering the implications of not confidently knowing the carrying capacity or condition of your racking system, it may be advisable to secure the services of a trained specialist.  The greatest risk to your warehouse safety is not doing the wrong thing. Instead, it is knowing the right thing to do, but choosing not to do it, says Cullem.