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Review Storage Rack Safety Basics In Recording Of RMI’s MODEX 2024 Education Session

At MODEX 2024, members of the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) shared “Pallet Rack Safety 101,” a 35-minute presentation. The session detailed why the safe use of an industrial storage rack system is key to warehouse productivity. For those who either missed the session or were unable to attend it, a recording of RMI’s MODEX 2024 education session offers a review of storage rack safety basics.

Presenting the session were:

  • Donald Toohey, Director of Engineering at RMI member UNARCO Material Handling, and
  • Marc Rousseau, Vice President of National Accounts and Strategic Partnerships at RMI member Damotech.

RMI Resources for Rack Safety Basics

Toohey started the session with an introduction to RMI’s broad collection of multimedia resources. In addition to videos, the group offers publications that assist in the design and implementation of a safe rack system, as well as maintenance and inspection practices. Other materials cover how to assess rack damage and guidance for deciding whether to repair or replace the damaged components. Included are:

  • The ANSI MH16.1 Standard for Design, Testing, and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks
  • The ANSI MH16.3 Standard for the Design, Testing, and Utilization of Industrial Steel Cantilevered Storage Racks
  • The ANSI MH26.2 Standard for the Design, Testing, and Utilization of Industrial Storage Rack Decking
  • Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks
  • Guideline for the Assessment and Repair or Replacement of Damaged Rack

Certain Parts of a Rack Are More Vulnerable

Next, Toohey walked through the different areas of a rack structure and described their degree of vulnerability to damage caused typically by impacts. Included were columns, frame bracing, base anchors, shelves and beams, connectors, and decking.

“Damage can also result from a broken pallet, or incorrectly positioning the pallet. It’s important that pallets be positioned correctly on the front and rear beam in order for the load to be uniformly distributed,” he explained.

Accessories a Part of Rack Safety Basics

Toohey also shared an overview of another category of rack safety basics: protective accessories. These include system enhancements, such as column inserts or reinforcement, double columns, heavy-duty shelf bracing, and devices that prevent beam lifting.

Rack accessories will help stabilize the structure in an impact, reducing the likelihood of a collapse,” Toohey said. “Column protectors — you’d be surprised at how well they work, despite looking very small. They prevent impacts from hitting the front column.”

Other solutions for rack protection detailed in the session were end of row rack guards and rack column protective devices — both free-standing and attached. Toohey also explained the safety advantages of wire decking, including increased visibility and fire code adherence.

“Wire decking helps water from sprinkler systems reach stored material,” he said. “It also gives better visibility to personnel. Those who are driving a truck have better visibility to higher locations. Also, personnel on the floor can see whether or not a pallet is unsafe or needs unloading.”

Toohey concluded his portion of the presentation by covering fire protection rack safety basics. These include sprinkler location requirements and storage depth limits from the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). Also discussed are data sheets from and Factory Mutual Global Insurance Company (FM Global) for hazardous materials, plastics, automated storage systems, and more.

Rack Safety Basics Includes Inspections

Rousseau led the discussion about rack inspections, a key component of rack safety basics. There are six types, including:

  1. At the point of manufacture, as required by the International Building Code (IBC)
  2. Upon delivery at the installation site
  3. During installation
  4. After installation
  5. Periodically post-commissioning
  6. After repair or replacement of damage

“The installation inspection is especially critical,” emphasized Rousseau. “You’ve invested in a quality product designed and stamped by an engineer as following the applicable building codes. You don’t want to hire an installer who doesn’t know how to properly assemble racking.”

Key areas for inspection include confirming that all beams and uprights are straight, plumb, and fully engaged. Rousseau also noted that an installation inspection will assess foot plates and floor anchors, as well as confirm beam elevation matches the load application and rack configuration (LARC) drawings.

“Also required by the IBC are load plaques that state the load capacities of the racking,” he added. “These can be placed on the end of an aisle if the capacities are consistent throughout the row, or individual labels on beams. Either way, they need to be accurate so that operators know what load they can safely place where.”

Post installation, facility personnel can perform routine rack safety inspections following a checklist. Best practice is to engage a third-party professional rack inspector annually for a thorough evaluation of the entire system, he said.

Damaged Rack Repair or Replacement

Understanding when to repair or replace a damaged rack component are also rack safety basics. “Any rack repair or replacement absolutely must be inspected before putting the system back in service,” emphasized Rousseau.

Periodic rack inspections should occur more often in areas that are more prone to damage, he advised. “Overall, however, the velocity of a facility’s operations will often dictate the frequency of rack safety inspections. A slow operation may only need rack inspections once a quarter. A fast-paced facility might need inspections weekly or even daily.”

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the warehouse owner to ensure the safety of personnel. That includes taking storage rack safety basics seriously, noted Rousseau. “The members of RMI are available to help operations meet their safety goals.”

Find More Information About Rack Safety Best Practices

Want to learn more about safe practices in installation, use, and repair of industrial storage rack systems? RMI offers multiple resources detailing both standards and best practices that enhance people and pallet rack safety. This includes a series of videos, presentations, publications, case studies, frequently asked questions, and an MHI Cast podcast recording about rack safety.