While school students prepare for final exams, you should consider an examination of your shelving and rack systems. Put them to the test. Part of a good warehouse safety program is making sure you have the safest equipment possible. You need safe ladders, forklifts and pallet jacks. You also need safe shelving and storage racks. If you’ve moved a storage rack or shelving to a new location, it should be checked and tested again for load capacity. You don’t want to have to think about it twice, or come in one morning to a bowed shelf with sagging product. Worse yet, you don’t want a shelf or rack to be unable to hold the weight and come crashing down on a person.
When selecting new shelving or storage components, read the specifications. Know your load requirements and how you intend to use the units. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers two guidelines for rack shelving, its General Duty guidelines reference the industry standard created by the Approved American National Standard Institute (ANSI) and the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI). OSHA addresses the securing of stored items in warehouses, but it doesn’t specify the type of racking or shelving that should be used. It is meant to be more of a stacking requirement to keep boxes or products from falling over or collapsing. The other item addresses the height of the stacked items – it must be a minimum of 18 inches away from any fire sprinklers. (OSHA Items 1910.176(b) and 1910.159)
The General Duty guidelines of OSHA holds employers responsible for protecting workers from serious and recognized hazards. It refers employers to the equipment manufacturer’s installation and maintenance instructions and the requirements set forth in Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks from ANSI/RMI.
Those design and testing specifications are the tests you should do annually on your shelving and rack systems. Review your OSHA compliance at least once a year, and when buying new warehouse storage units, look for the R-MARK product. ANSI and RMI created a voluntary certification program called R-MARK that is available to manufacturers for storage racks and shelving products. To earn this certification, the product must endure a rigorous review of load capacity calculations and tests by independent professional engineers. If the storage unit proves to align with the ANSI/RMI specifications, it has earned its certification, a valuable tool to rack system manufacturers. These specifications apply to commonly used pallet racks, movable shelf racks, stacker racks and rack supported structures, as well as any freestanding rack that is constructed with beams and frames, like push back racks, pallet flow racks, case flow racks and order picking modules. You can find most of these rack types at Everything Warehouse, and you can rest assured that they meet specifications.
When you come to Everything Warehouse for racking systems, you’ll see the posted signs for allowable floor loads in our warehouse. We’ll be able to tell you the maximum load each type of rack system can handle. Often, it is required by law that the maximum load be posted. Remember that unit load weight includes the pallet, if it stays with the product, and that your warehouse manager is responsible to make sure load limits are observed.
If a rack gets moved or modified, test it again for capacity load. For example, if you reconfigure your rack to work as an upright frame so you can have more shelves, the load capacity could change. It could get better because the shelves are supported by reinforced vertical columns, or it could decline if anything has been left unbraced by a pallet beam. It is especially important to do these tests if you purchase gently used shelves or rack systems.
Other tests recommended by the ANSI/RMI Specifications include pallet beam tests, to make sure the rack system can hold what it claims it can, and to be sure you’ve assembled it properly.
There are two different types of tests: one where the pallet beam is simply supported and the other where the pallet beam is in an upright frame system. The tests are run with stacking being done by test machines or jacks. The Cantilever test determines the rack’s capacity and rigidity at the moment of impact – or when the product comes in contact with the rack system. The rack should be stable, but not so rigid that it cracks or breaks. In addition, if you want to prevent damage to your rack systems from run-ins with machinery, try placing a buffer or bumper around the bottom so that the rack itself does not take the direct impact of a forklift or pallet jack.
Check your column base plates and anchors. Make sure they are stable. The guidelines specify that all rack columns must be anchored to the floor. The purpose of anchors is to keep the rack in place and to fix the distances between columns. Anchors can become loose from impact of a forklift or pallet jack, or they can weaken during an earthquake or high winds. Check them often to be sure your racks are secure.
More testing tips to come next month!