Rack Codes & StandardsRack Design & Installation

How To Safely Access Pallets When Loading And Removing From Elevated Work Platforms

As more operations add pick modules, rack supported platforms, and elevated work platforms to increase the throughput and capacity of their picking zones, facility owners need to be aware of safety requirements for fall prevention measures that protect workers. These include guardrails as required by the ANSI MH16.1: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks (published by RMI) located around the perimeter of the elevated platforms or walkways.

Yet guardrails can be an obstacle to the replenishment of products. Most operations use forklifts to deliver the loads to a pallet drop zone at an aisle-side ledge; the presence of a fixed guardrail would inhibit this process. Therefore, ANSI MH16.1 permits devices that can be temporarily removed to enable access as needed.

The ANSI MH16.1 specification offers several alternatives to fixed guardrails. These options provide accessibility while maintaining employee safety, provided that the devices match the strength and configuration requirements of the adjacent permanent guardrail. They include:

  • Removable guardrail sections or removable chains.
  • Guards that provide continuous protection, such as a double-hung safety gate.
  • A guard that provides temporary protection, such as a lift-out, sliding, swinging or pivoting gate with the appropriate support framing.

Further details are offered in ANSI MH32.1: Stairs, Ladders, and Open-Edge Guards for Use with Material Handling Structures, a specification developed by RMI in partnership with the Storage Manufacturers Association (SMA). Its provisions specifically apply to industrial racking pick modules, industrial shelving pick modules, decked-over platforms, and free-standing work platforms.

Temporary guarding options include:

  • Safety gates that either swing open to one side or that consist of two interconnected protective barriers that raise, lower, slide, or pivot in tandem.
  • Removable guardrail sections, which must be equipped with a personal fall-protection system.
  • Removable chains or cables for pallet drop zones, which must also be equipped with a personal fall-protection system.

To further protect the workers and the structure itself, a best safety practice is to train forklift operators to approach loading and unloading areas with caution. Additionally, forklift operators should alert personnel working overhead that pallet placement or removal is imminent. The beams at the elevated drop zone opening can be painted a different color—such as red or yellow—to increase their visibility and help forklift drivers more accurately place or retrieve the pallet load.

Want more information about other structural components that protect workers on pick modules? Download a free copy of the RMI/SMA ANSI MH32.1: Stairs, Ladders, and Open-Edge Guards for Use with Material Handling Structures specification.