Pallet racking protection is an important consideration for any business which operates a racking storage solution. But what is pallet racking protection, why is it so vital and what legal obligations are involved in its use?
Simply put, warehouse racking system protection consists of products used to prevent damage from being done to commercial racking systems.
Any storage space in which lifting equipment is used is prone to safety risks, which is why warehouse racking protection is such a necessary investment.
There are lots of different types of protective products available to use in combination with a modern racking system. This includes everything from floor mounted racking upright protectors to end of rack barriers and column guards.
Without adequate pallet racking protection, you risk costly and potentially catastrophic damage occurring, putting workers at risk of injury or death and increasing the possibility that goods will be destroyed. With pallet racking barriers in place, you will be creating a protective layer that will keep machinery away from fragile points and avert disaster on a daily basis.
Racking protection can have lots of advantages, starting with the obvious benefit that will come from a lower rate of damage being caused to the framework of your storage. The machinery that is used to handle pallets in a warehouse is heavy, powerful and has the potential to ding, dent or entirely destroy rows of racking. This is not a risk you have to take with pallet racking upright protectors in place.
This is not just about one-off accidents, but about the wear and tear of everyday use. If a rack is damaged even slightly, then it will no longer be safe to use, regardless of if it remains standing and apparently stable after the impact. This compromises some of your much-needed storage capacity and will result in increased costs as you scrabble to fix or replace the affected rack.
Racking protection is not just a preventative measure because it physically blocks machinery from bumping into the uprights and legs, but also because it acts as a helpful reminder to operators that there are some areas they need to avoid. Bold, obvious rack protectors will stand out from a great distance and continually alert employees to the need to take care when working in and around the warehouse. This kind of conspicuous protection technique is one which is applied in other areas and is something that industry bodies actively promote because of its impactful qualities.
There are some regulatory reasons to invest in pallet racking protection, which we will cover later on. But whether or not you are obliged to boost safety in your warehouse because of legal pressures, there are lots of other reasons to take action. From saving money to preserving productivity and avoiding unplanned downtime, pallet racking barriers can keep paying dividends year after year.
There are a variety of protective products designed for modern pallet racking systems, each of which fulfils a different role, and comes at a different price point.
Racking leg protectors are offered in a number of forms, from clip-on foam covers that look a lot like pipe lagging to polymer-based column guards that are either self-affixing or held on with a Velcro strap. These are intended to essentially be disposable so that when one is damaged after an impact, it can be removed and replaced in a matter of seconds, while the underlying structure of the racking is untouched. Low speed, low force accidents can be shrugged off by this type of pallet racking protection, which is why they are well suited to in-aisle deployment.
End of rack barriers is similarly varied in their design, with single-piece tubular assemblies offered alongside crash barrier-style setups designed to obstruct heavy duty equipment effectively. These are more permanent and durable, made from steel and built to be robust enough to take a significant amount of force without giving way and leaving the racking at risk.
Floor mounted racking upright protectors are similarly varied in terms of their designs, capabilities and costs. Some are optimised to protect the corner leg of a rack from being knocked or jarred by equipment or personnel. Others are suited to stop each upright along an aisle from being vulnerable to damage as lift trucks move past, looking for the right pallet to pick up.
You can also install floor-mounted posts which sit at the end of each aisle and provide a permanent definition of where lift trucks can travel, leaving no ambiguity about the safest paths to take. These posts are perhaps the most resilient and sturdy of the protective options that are available, although they do make it more difficult to reconfigure the arrangement of racking, or to make adjustments to aisle widths, which is worth bearing in mind.
Interestingly enough there are no specific legal requirements governing the installation and use of pallet racking protection systems, but there are general health and safety regulations which do apply to this type of equipment. As a result it is sensible for businesses to keep on top of this legislation in order to avoid falling foul of regulators, as well as to keep staff safe and to prevent unnecessary damage occurring.
The HSE (Health & Safety Executive) has its own guidelines covering the use of warehousing and storage equipment. It states that racking which is exposed to machinery and vehicles of any kind should be afforded some kind of protection, specifically at ground level where impacts are most likely to occur.
It argues that the best option for this comes in the form of column guards which can be replaced whenever they are compromised. It also points out that these guards should be highly visible, which is why they are typically coloured in a bright, vibrant hue. This acts as a warning for truck operators to literally steer clear and keep to a predetermined path.
Under the EN 15629 European standard, steel racking systems are also discussed, with similar conclusions reached by continental regulators.
The standard calls for the use of conspicuous pallet racking upright protectors at the end of rows, where they will be closest to equipment that is darting to and fro nearby. It also points out that it is a good idea for businesses to configure aisle widths according to the types of protection that will be needed. This is something that might otherwise be overlooked in the rush to invest in a pallet racking system, and if not enough room is left for racking leg protectors then problems will obviously be more likely to arise.
Finally the Storage Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) has its own practical rules which apply to pallet racking protection, again focusing on how uprights should be guarded against impacts from lift trucks. It suggests that in addition to column guards, the installation of guide rails can be beneficial in keeping these two separate at all times.
In the UK the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 needs to be followed by any business looking to use pallet racking, or any type of warehouse storage solution for that matter. The same is true of the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992. Compliance, in either case, is only achievable through the correct selection and installation of high-quality warehouse racking system protection products.
By this point you should be convinced of the need for racking protection, but how can you decide between the different solutions that are available? The obvious answer is to look at the standards to which each product conforms. Manufacturers which have built their warehouse racking protection to meet these internationally accepted standards will clearly be the most desirable in this case.
First up is EN 15512, a standard governing steel static storage systems which is relevant for any solution that is built to cope with static loads through the use of steel beams. This is not currently enforceable in the UK, so it is not necessary for domestic manufacturers to meet it, but it will obviously be a positive sign if they do so.
SEMA has its own quality standard, which is effectively the equivalent of EN 15512 when it comes to pallet racking and the protective products that are designed to prevent damage.
The SEMA Code goes into detail about the exact impact-absorption profiles that racking protection should be able to meet, depending on its intended positioning. For example, corner-mounted pallet racking protection needs to be able to soak up 400Nm of force applied to both its front and side faces without giving way. In-aisle protectors must be rated for 200Nm of absorption, while those designed for heavy duty use will need to be specified and tested according to the conclusions of a risk assessment on a case-by-case basis.
Hopefully, you now have an appreciation for and understand of pallet racking protection and the benefits that it offers for warehouse operators everywhere.