Many industries and businesses have warehouse racking (or shelving) systems to store materials. It’s a great way to utilize the space you have available, and to keep things organized. However, with everything stacked so high, your employees are at risk of catastrophic injury or even death, should the system fail.

The most common hazard with racking systems is the risk of collapse. One damaged component, potentially caused by overloading the rack or repeated bumps from a forklift, and the whole thing can come crashing down. Not only is your inventory scattered all over the place, but workers may be trapped underneath.

If one racking system fails, there’s a chance it will fall forward into another, creating a domino effect that poses even greater risk to your employees.

What your employees need to know about working with racks and shelving

Damage to the system isn’t always obvious. Items placed on the rack could hide some problem areas, or a single bump from a forklift might not cause an accident right away. However, over time, the weight of the inventory stored and additional forklift collisions can cause more stress to the damaged area. This increases the likelihood of a collapse.

What your employees need to do when working with racks and shelving

As the employer, you should conduct a full evaluation of your racking systems at least twice a year.

In the interim, you want your employees to always be on the lookout for obvious damage. This includes dents, bent shelves, bent or cracked posts, or other similar deficiencies.

Your workers should also do the following:

  • Report any damage as soon as it’s identified.
  • Never exceed weight limits specified in the operations manual.
  • Use extreme caution when operating a forklift or pallet jack.
  • Never operate a forklift or pallet jack without proper training and certification.

Forklift operators should report any contact with the racks, no matter how small. You, the employer, should then investigate to determine if damage has occurred. This checklist can help with your investigation.

What to cover at your safety meeting about racks and shelving

Review the operations manual that comes with the racking systems. This helps employees to know the weight limits and stacking instructions. Make sure they know where to find the manual for future reference.

Take the time to go over the racking structure and identify all the components. Show the types of damage they should be looking for.

Other items to discuss include:

  • The proper procedure for reporting any incidents, including where damage was caused.
  • The proper procedure to report r any damage detected during a visual inspection.
  • How to load and unload materials correctly on the racks.
  • The proper method of storing materials on the racks, and how to evenly distribute weight.
  • The required training for forklift operators and when that is available.
  • Your emergency response plan and what your employees' roles are in executing it.

Train your workers on what to look for. This way you have extra eyes on hand to help identify signs of possible trouble. And, you can then quickly address that trouble before things come crashing to the ground.