Rack Design & InstallationRack Inspection & Maintenance

Safeguard Rack Columns Against Forklift Impacts With These Five Protective Solutions

To help protect rack columns from forklift and other vehicle impacts, there are a number of optional rack guard accessories that can be added to aisle-side or end-facing rack columns (or to the floor in front of them). Additionally, for operations that wish to maximize the amount of aisle clearance, there are five impact protection modifications that can be implemented in high lift traffic applications. These modifications safeguard rack uprights against impact and minimize the amount of damage such a collision can cause. They can also be used with both structural and roll-formed steel rack systems.

Described in RMI’s ANSI MH16.1 Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, none of these design enhancements will prevent the rack from failing due to a major collision. Neither should they be considered a replacement for proper and routine forklift driver training and management. However, their implementation can greatly reduce the chances that a minor, day-to-day impact will cause a collapse. Further, should an impact cause significant damage to the racking structure, these options may extend the time needed to safely unload the rack and remove it from commission until it can be inspected and repaired by a certified rack engineer.

One or more of these design enhancements may be added to a system, depending on the application. They are most frequently deployed in areas where collisions are more likely to occur: on the aisle-facing columns of interior uprights, or to both columns in end-of-row or tunnel-bay cross-over uprights.

  1. Double Columns. In certain applications, a second column can be welded to the front column to provide additional reinforcement and strength to the upright. The additional column also provides some redundancy by redistributing the load stress if the front column is damaged due to impact.
  2. Column Inserts or Reinforcement. To increase the impact strength and load capacity of the column, reinforcement sections can be added externally or internally. These sections can be made from different materials, such as steel or wood. Further, they can be situated inside racking columns to provide added protection against impact damage.
  3. Heavy-Duty Bracing. Utilizing heavier horizontal and diagonal bracing within the rack upright — particularly in the areas below the lowest beam level — can also help the upright resist damage caused by a forklift collision.
  4. External Column Protectors. A variety of externally mounted devices that can be added to the column to provide an additional degree of impact protection. These options include steel guards bolted to the floor, steel guards bolted or welded to the column, snap-on plastic and rubber shock absorbing devices, guard rails, floor rails, and more.
  5. Beam Uplift Protection. Most roll-formed rack beams are installed with studded-type or formed steel connectors. The beams snap into place with spring-type locking devices or clips. Should a forklift driver miscalculate the clearance of a pallet load opening and impact the beam above the load, the resulting contact can create an excessive upward force. This may exceed the spring lock’s capacity, potentially causing dislodgment of the beam. For more protection against beam uplift, secondary items — such as bolts and J-pins — can be added to provide enhanced restraint by locking the beam connections.

The vast majority of steel storage racks designed to RMI standards will deliver a long, safe service life, provided they have been correctly assembled, maintained and used in an environment where properly trained forklift drivers operate with caution and care. For operations wishing to further protect their racking structure, however, these modifications can enhance its resistance to forklift impacts.

Looking for more rack protection accessories? Section 3.4.2 of RMI’s publication, “Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks,” offers a detailed review of the options.