Pallet Rack Preventative Care

Pallet racks are frequently subject to abuse, and even the toughest pallet rack will need some cautious handling processes, crash guard equipment, and other help to remain in tact. Racks can be overloaded, hit by large forklifts, and otherwise impacted by these events. These are some tips to help you avoid the frustration, expense, and danger of rack damage.

  • Train, follow up, and then train more. Training is always key. Do your forklift drivers know the right procedures for backing away from racks? Do they observe speed limits and widen turns near racks? This is an ongoing process, and management must use it to be effective. Given the cost of a single rack collapse, the time and effort spent on training drivers is critical. Treat them more as skilled workers than general warehouse hands and it will pay dividends in multiple ways.


  • Clean house. Clutter can contribute significantly to rack damage because it limits the maneuverability of forklifts in an already confined space. Pallets stacked in aisles, pallet jacks left in front of bays, and other obstructions endanger racks by reducing visibility and limiting drivers' options. Will a driver swerve to miss an obstruction and then swipe a rack?


  • Widen your aisles: One of the greatest issues with pallet rack preventative care is the width of the aisle. This is understandable as companies want to maximize space, but it can be incredibly counterproductive if aisles are too narrow. While reconfiguring a series of rack aisles is tedious and time consuming, consider the cost of a single rack collapse due to insufficiently wide aisles. The generally-accepted aisle width in most facilities is 12 to 14 feet, and that should be enough to allow good drivers to back away from one aisle without slamming into another. For narrow aisle's, consult your manufacturer guidelines and in all cases, refer to your forklift manufacturer documentation for recommended aisle widths.


  • Adequate lighting. While this is a minor issue, rack aisles are inherently darker and throw more shadows than open floor space. Good lighting also helps drivers' state of minds and keeps them sharper.

  • Watch the corners. Pallet Racks are often damaged at the lower five feet when It's hit at the end of a row which are usually the diagonal and horizontal braces. This happens because forklift operators turn into the bottom of the racking systems as they round a corner while emerging from or entering an aisle. Aside from consistent training, you can help prevent this type of damage if you install crash guards or other protective systems to make sure drivers give themselves adequate turning space.


  • Inspect your rack regularly. While this won't prevent damage in and of itself, it can let you know when a problem arises and prevent further damage. Aside from professional inspections, do a walk through and visual inspection as frequently as you can to see if there is damage. Damaged rack is a ticking time bomb; knowing about issues allows you to repair or replace damaged components before a serious accident can occur.

  • Anonymous reports of accidents. Forklift drivers are often hesitant to inform management of a collision because they fear punishment. If you implement a drop box where people can anonymously inform you of rack collisions and other safety problems, you may remove the fear of punishment in the event of an accident. You'll always have to monitor for careless drivers, but you need to know if your rack has been damaged.


  • Consider cameras and monitoring systems. While this is somewhat invasive for employees, it allows you to identify when and where a rack was hit so you can address it with the driver. If rack damage is a persistent issue, it may be worth considering. Cameras consciously make people aware that they are being monitored, and thus they take more precaution.


  • Paint your forks. Often, after damage has occurred, You'll see it, but be unable to identify who was responsible. If each forklift has different color forks, It's easy to identify which one caused the damage. If the truck is matched to an individual, this makes it possible to track damage and address it with the driver.


  • Increase visibility. Consider backup alarms, rear view mirrors, rack mounted safety mirrors, or other devices that help increase awareness and visibility for drivers.


  • Check capacity of rack. Capacity issues often occur when new SKU's are brought in, and storage positions are reconfigured. The takeaway: if you're storing something new or substantially different on the same pallet positions, check the weight and confirm both the beam and upright capacity of your racks.

  • Install crash guards and bollards at the end of rows. Install pallet protectors at each frame post to help cushion potential impacts. Sure this has a higher initial cost, but the wear and tear it can save on your rack over time is significant. That doesn't even account for the possibility that it may help prevent a rack collapse that could cost thousands of dollars, or even worse, cause serious injuries to an employee.