How to Protect People and Pallet Rack from Forklift Damage

forklift damage

If you look at the OSHA literature on warehousing, it’s not surprising to see startling statistics. OSHA’s job is to encourage American businesses to create safer workplaces for employees. But there is one point in particular that’s worth noticing: warehousing has a higher than average fatal injury rate. With more and more jobs being held in offices and away from real danger, this may not be breaking news. Still, it’s clear there’s still plenty of work to be done  when it comes to preventing injuries. So what can we start doing now to improve workplace safety for warehouse personnel?

The most obvious answer to the question of how to make warehouses a safer place to work is to build a culture of safety. A culture of safety encompasses everything from education to training, attitudes to procedures. A culture of safety is the foundation on which everything else sits. And there’s no better time than now to focus on safety and start getting serious about creating a culture where safety is the norm. That’s why we’re taking these final months of 2017 to zero in on warehouse safety and work towards a more accident-free 2018.

Building a culture of safety is a process that can’t be executed overnight. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do right now to help you or your client onto the right track. One of these things is making sure the warehouse has the appropriate safety products in place to prevent accidents in high risk areas. These areas typically include high forklift traffic zones, end-of-aisle areas, and in-plant offices or other areas with a significant presence of personnel. In this article, we’ll take a look at three products that are designed to protect people and pallet racking from coming into contact with lift trucks during daily operations.

GuardRail

The most frequently cited OSHA violations are those related to forklifts. Of course, forklifts usually don’t pose a threat by themselves. It’s driving a forklift that can be dangerous, and usually the driver is the one most exposed to risk. But forklifts can also be hazardous to surrounding workers, especially if both parties aren’t aware of the other’s presence.

In the warehouse, guardrail makes it clear for lift truck operators which areas are traffic lanes and which areas are off limits. And it’s not just forklifts that warehouse guardrail systems protect against. They also keep people and equipment safe from floor scrubbers, pallet jacks, and other heavy equipment with the potential to do damage or pose a safety risk.

warehouse guardrail

Warehouse guardrail installed along a walkway

End of Aisle Protectors

Pallet rack and the inventory it’s designed to store are both valuable investments. Like any investment, we all want to do what we can to make sure it pays off down the road. In the warehouse, one of the simplest ways to protect pallet storage equipment is to install end-of-aisle protectors. End-of-aisle guarding is especially important because it tends to fend off collisions in high-traffic areas of the warehouse.

At the ends of pallet rack rows, forklifts may be going faster and turning tighter than in other areas, increasing the chances of an expensive and dangerous collision. End-of-aisle protectors work as bumpers, deflecting oncoming traffic away from the racking and keeping people and the system itself safer.

end-of-aisle-protectors

End-of-aisle-protectors shield upright frames in high-traffic areas

Column Protectors

For organizations with a focus on safety, pallet rack column protectors are just as important as the ones commonly found on structural building columns.

Just like a building’s structural columns, pallet rack columns can be damaged and weakened by collisions from forklifts. When the forged steel tines impact the upright column, the hollow upright is easily dented. These dents range from minor cosmetic damage to serious damage that causes loss of capacity. And when an upright is damaged enough to be rendered unusable, it’s usually as expensive and more difficult to repair it than to just replace it.

Basic column protectors are a relatively easy and inexpensive way to prolong the life of upright frames. Pallet rack column protectors often bolt to the floor, but there are also models that clasp to the upright itself, saving installation time and eliminating the need to drill into the concrete floor.

column protector

A standard pallet rack column protector, with holes for bolting to the floor

Building a Culture of Warehouse Safety

Emphasizing safety and holding an organization’s leadership and personnel accountable for high safety standards are the bedrock of building a culture of safety in the warehouse. It’s no small change, but it’s one that pays off over the long run. While many of the tasks that go into building a culture of safety are focused on education and organizational values, there are at least a few actions you or your client can take right now. One of those is to ensure basic protective equipment is installed. When combined with safety best practices, installing protective equipment can dramatically increase safety in virtually no time.