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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.

Warehouse Safety Essentials: Pallet Rack Drop Pin

As of 2017, the Public Storage and Warehousing industry is one that employs over 600,000 people and brings in $22 billion in revenue. And that doesn’t include the countless warehouses that belong to companies shipping their own tangible products. This means, among many other things, that there’s a massive amount of product movement within warehouses and fulfillment centers every day. Ultimately, this also spells more risk of commonplace accidents unless warehouse safety best practices are observed.

Some warehouse safety measures consume a lot of time, energy and money to implement. Others are fast, easy, and relatively cost-effective. As part of our WPRP University series, this article will cover a small but important aspect of warehouse storage that everyone in material handling or warehousing should be familiar with. It’s a topic that understandably is overlooked, but is crucial to the safety of a warehouse. We’re talking about what RMI refers to as “beam connector locking devices.” Others may simply know them as “pallet rack clips,” “beam clips,” “drop pins,” “j bolts,” or a wide variety of other names.

We’re going to cover why these small parts are a necessity and not an accessory, when they’re needed and when they’re not, and arm you with information you can use to make your customer’s or your warehouse a safer place.

pallet rack drop pin

Lift trucks help make modern logistics possible, but don’t come completely without risks of their own.

Pallet Rack Beam Clips and Warehouse Safety

Let’s first take a step back. What are we referring to when we mention pallet rack safety pins? What are they, and why is there a need for them in the first place? 

pallet rack safety pin

An example of built in safety pins. These pins are pushed in when the beam is installed, stopping any upward motion. It’s often a good idea to install safety drop pins on beams like these in case built in pins no longer function properly.

For our purposes, “beam connector locking device” refers to a component that keeps pallet rack beams engaged in the upright frame column. This is a necessary feature because of the way pallet rack is designed to hold together. In most cases, pins on the connecting portion, or “ear” of the beam are inserted into slots in the upright frames. Here they’re held in place by a combination of gravity and friction from the upright frame. 

However, neither gravity nor friction are strong enough counteract the upward force of a lift truck. The hydraulic mechanisms of modern lift trucks can easily move thousands of pounds. In many cases, this means that a simple miscalculation or equipment misfire could dislodge an entire beam level and its contents, threatening the safety of any personnel in the area and likely damaging the product in the process. This is why ANSI/RMI MH 16.1 Section 5.4.2 specifies that all beams should have a locking device capable of resisting an upward force of at least 1,000 pounds.

Built In Pallet Rack Beam Safety Clips

Many manufacturers took notice of the need for locking pins over the years, and began manufacturing racking with locking pins built in. This advent removes the need for end users to purchase and install locking pins separately, as the pin locks the beam into place upon installation. Where users often run into trouble is with pallet racking that’s purchased in used condition or beams whose clips have been sheered off.

pallet rack safety clip

As a material handling company, we’ve heard firsthand accounts of rack accidents involving beam disengagement, and they often result in the end user rushing to find a solution that will prevent it from happening again. The solution we usually suggest is to install Universal Drop Pins on all pallet rack beams without locking pins.

The Universal Pallet Rack Drop Pin

One of the reasons we recommend using the Universal Pallet Rack Drop Pin is in its name: it fits virtually all pallet rack brands that have 3/8” aligning holes on the beam-to-frame connection. Not only does it work well for a wide variety of different brands, but it’s easy to install. As we show in our video demonstrating how to install the Universal Pallet Rack Drop Pin, it’s as easy as dropping the pin through the correct slots. 

 

Often times when tearing down pallet rack or re-slotting beams at different elevations, the safety clips are bent backwards or sheered off, unable to function properly when the beam is finally reinstalled. This is one of the most common situations in which the Universal Drop Pin comes in handy. If you’re purchasing a warehouse full of used racking and using or reselling it, why not play it safe and install drop pins on beams that have broken or missing clips?

pallet rack drop pinOnce in place, the drop pin will keep beams secured in the upright frame, even in the event of upward force. Drop pins are also coated in a rust and corrosion-resistant zinc plating, an important feature if the racking is exposed to the elements. 

How to Ensure Beams are Secured

It’s important to actively maintain warehouse safety, and part of that process is making sure cross beams are securely engaged in frame columns. If the beams have built in locking pins, make a note during regular rack inspections to check the safety locking pin. If it’s been removed, a replacement clip or Universal Pallet Rack Drop Pin should be installed.

When ordering used pallet racking, order enough safety pins to secure each beam. Because of their utility and the impact they have on warehouse safety, we include drop pins with every used pallet rack purchase, free of cost.

What are Pallet Rack Row Spacers?

With WPRP University, our goal is to help you by getting back to the basics. We’ve found that, a lot of the time, delivering value to your customer lies in being knowledgeable about the foundational parts of warehouse storage. It’s impossible to become a true expert without first having a firm grasp of things like how to measure frame depth, calculating height-to-depth ratio, and, as we’ll cover in this article, the “when,” “how” and “why” of using pallet rack row spacers.

Even though the products, methods and ideas we discuss in WPRP University are simple and straightforward, there are often deeper reasons for using them that are worth learning about in order to better understand that product and its function.

What is a Row Spacer?

Row spacers are aptly named because their primary function is to keep a consistent horizontal distance between two rows of pallet racking. Row spacers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, depending on who the manufacturer is. At WPRP, we stock a galvanized-finish row spacer, but they can be found in orange, green, yellow, and practically any other color. The flat part in the middle of the row spacer is what is usually being referred to when referencing its length. Many row spacers have flanges that are screwed into the sides of the upright frames, and so this part of the row spacer can’t be included in the actual space between space between rows. See the image below for an example.

pallet rack row spacers

An example of a Ridg-U-Rak pallet rack row spacer. This particular model is compatible with both teardrop and slotted pallet rack.

While pallet rack row spacers are found on the market in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, all of them share a common reason for existing: maintaining a certain amount of space between rows of pallet racking. But why would this be important to begin with? As it turns out, there are a few reasons why row spacers are more important than many of us realize.

Why would You Need Row Spacers?

Does every pallet rack application call for pallet rack row spacers? The short answer is “no.” An obvious example of an application without a need for row spacers is one with a single row of pallet rack. An job like this might require wall ties, but not row spacers, since there’s only one row to begin with. Shorter racking systems that are bolted to the floor may also not call for row spacers, since there’s less of an opportunity for the uprights to move. And although there are a lot of jobs in which row spacers would be unnecessary, there are also many warehouse storage applications out there that would benefit greatly from having them. There are a few main reasons why:

1. Row Spacers help keep longitudinal flue spaces clear.

If you or your client owns or operates a warehouse, odds are you want to be code compliant. Not only does being code compliant generally improve the overall safety of the workplace, but it’s the best way to avoid being stung by a violation fine. By keeping pallet rack rows a minimum distance apart from one another, row spacers eliminate the need to worry about longitudinal flue spaces. Note: Be sure to install row spacers that are long enough. If codes mandate 6” longitudinal flue spaces, a 6” row spacer isn’t likely to cut it, because the 3” of pallet overhang on each side will fully eclipse the 6”, leaving your flue space at roughly 0”.

Longitudinal flue space

Longitudinal flue space

2. Row spacers can effectively double the depth of the uprights.

We’ve discussed the importance of having a safe height-to-depth ratio. ANSI/RMI recommends normal anchoring for racks with a height-to-depth ratio of 6 to 1 or less. If higher than that, anchoring that resists at least 350# of force at the top level is required. However, row spacers can also be used to connect two rows of racking that would otherwise have height-to-depth ratios over 6 to 1, effectively lowering their height-to-depth ratio and stabilizing the system.

pallet rack row spacers

Formula to calculate pallet rack height-to-depth ratio

3. Row spacers keep pallet rack rows aligned.

If it’s particularly important to keep a consistent space between back-to-back rows of pallet racking in a warehouse, row spacers are often the easiest and most cost effective way of doing it. By adding one or two row spacers per upright column, it’s possible to keep both rows plumb throughout the distance of the racking system.

Where to Find Pallet Rack Row Spacers

If you find yourself or your customer in need of pallet rack row spacers, you won’t have to look far. The often-overlooked pallet rack row spacer is still an important facet of warehouses around the globe, and it’s common to find it in the inventory of material handling equipment distributors. That’s why we stock it as part of our 48 Hour Quick Ship program, and why we encourage our customers to keep row spacers in mind. You never know when your customer will need a cost effective way to meet safety codes, improve the stability of their racking, or just keep everything in line.

If you’d like to learn more about row spacers, please give us a call or send us an email and ask away.

Remember, our goal is to help you!

Product Spotlight: Wildeck’s RiderLift Rideable Material Lift

Product Spotlight: Wildeck’s RiderLift Rideable Material Lift

Wisconsin-based Wildeck, Inc.  has been in the business of providing mezzanine platforms, safety guarding products, ladder and stair products, and VRCs for four decades now. They recently released two interesting new products geared at improving the effectiveness of retail backrooms, warehouses, distribution centers, logistics centers, and other similar operations. The NetGate and RiderLift were both released in April of 2017 at ProMat in Chicago.

Wildeck-RiderLift-RML

The RiderLift: Rideable Material Lift

The new RiderLift is interesting for a few reasons, but one in particular: it’s the only rideable VRC in the United States. All other VRC’s are non-rideable. The RiderLift is a rideable material lift that meets the requirements of a “Type B Rideable Material Lift.” Therefore, it’s technically not a VRC (Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor). It’s better described as a VRC/elevator hybrid. Because of this, it introduces an entirely new product category in the material handling industry: the RML, or Rideable Material Lift. 

VRCs are regulated by safety codes and by definition can not permit riders. In order to accommodate a rider, the RiderLift is regulated under the ASME A17.1. In meeting these requirements, it becomes an RML instead of a VRC. It’s important to note that these requirements are not the same as an elevator intended for passengers. These elevators require additional infrastructure and must meet different requirements. Under its current regulations, the RiderLift is limited to carrying a single passenger. 

Rideable Material Lift Applications

The primary advantage of a warehouse is to save time and streamline warehouse workflow. Given this, the RiderLift would typically be most useful in large warehouses where the stairs are located far away from the current VRC.

The RiderLift can also be used to transport valuable products that require authorized personnel to ride along with them, and for unstable products that need balancing or stabilizing. Motorcycles, for example, would be more secure and stable if a person were to ride along and hold it in place than if it were sent up on its own.

Benefits

The main benefit of the RiderLift is that it provides an approach for a more effective and efficient mode of transporting material to a second level. Other employees don’t have to be pulled away from their tasks to help operate or walk the length of the warehouse to reach the stairs. Depending upon the size of the warehouse, activities like these can eat into operational efficiency over time.

The idea behind implementing a RiderLift is to cut labor time and cost, as well as add security by having authorized workers ride along  with the product. It could also make transferring the material itself easier, helping to reduce the risk of accidents and injury.

Specifications:

  • Designed and manufactured in the USA
  • Lifting capacity of 2,500 lbs.
  • Lift Structure: Guide columns are 6” wide-flange structural steel
  • Car Size: 6 ft W x 6 ft L x 80” H (standard)
  • Car Construction: Structural frame with 14 gauge sheet metal panels removable for maintenance 
  • Lift Speed: 20 feet per minute 
  • Top Lift Height: 14 ft — Ground plus one level
  • Perimeter Guarding: Full lift height expanded metal guarding in a steel frame
  • Landing Gates: 96” H bi-panel swing gates constructed of expanded metal in a steel frame. Including certified interlocks
  • Installation requires an authorized elevator contractor and necessary permits
  • Restrictions: 
    • Not a public elevator and must not be accessible to the general public
    • Authorized personnel only
    • Only one operator is permitted at a time
  • Location: Installation at floor edge or through one “non-fire-rated” floor only
    • Fire-rated floor penetration not permitted
    • Pit mounted or floor surface mounted with ramp 

The NetGate: Rack Pick Module Safety Gate 

Wildeck, Inc. also released their NetGate on the show floor at ProMat. The NetGate can be described as a Pick Module safety gate. It provides safe access to palletized materials at elevated levels of pick modules or rack systems. It’s constructed with InCord netting and uses a cable and pulley system that’s easy to install onto new or existing rack structures. When one side of the gate is lifted the other side closes, providing complete fall protection for workers and product. The NetGate aims to provide improvement upon current safety and security conditions, while simplifying operations.

NetGate-Operation

Benefits

According to Wildeck, NetGate’s primary value lies in added safety. It protects the workers from falling off the mezzanine or elevated levels by having the netting covering the opening. It also protects the opposite side from falling materials when forklifts are loading or unloading. The NetGate is made from netting rather than steel, allowing it to operate on a pulley system. The pulley system reduces the strain of repeatedly lifting and lowering the gate.

The NetGate complies with OSHA and IBC regulations, and can also hold tall pallet loads and carts that other gates for rack pick modules can’t store. It has knocked-down packaging and a lightweight design for cost effective shipping. The NetGate is an option that can solve footprint issues with minimal added weight. It also has an easy installation process that bolts onto existing holes in the rack uprights, requiring no drilling. 

NetGate Pick Module Safety Gate

Specifications:

  • Mounts onto most rack manufacturer’s uprights
    • Free standing options available
  • Standard size is for 8’ W x 7’ H x 42” D rack bays
    • Custom sizes available per customers’ request
  • Gate is mostly contained within the rack bay
    • With the gate protruding only 6” from the rack (front and rear)
  • Netting spans the full width and height of openings
  • Net Info:
    • Rachel Knotless Netting
    • Fiber: High tenacity, polypropylene (HTPP)
    • Mesh Break: Designed to meet or exceed applicable safety codes

Unleashing BeastWire Mesh Guarding in Pennsylvania

Wire Mesh Guarding

At WPRP, our goal is to help you by providing educational content and pallet rack products. But pallet rack isn’t all that we carry. A more accurate way of describing what we sell is solutions to warehouse storage problems. Pallet racking may be the foundation, but sometimes racking on its own doesn’t meet the full spectrum of a customer’s needs. That’s why we offer a full line of pallet rack accessories that help businesses make their warehouses safer and more productive. Often times a product that only came about as an afterthought or an add-on item on a quote can make the difference between a so-so warehouse and one that’s safe, efficient, and code compliant. That’s why we’re so excited to announce a new member of the WPRP 48 hour quick ship product family: BeastWire Mesh Guarding

Wire mesh guarding has a lot of benefits for pallet rack systems. One of the most obvious of these benefits is the additional safety. As engineering technology and strategies advance, pallet rack systems gradually get taller and taller. The higher up a load is on a rack system, the more damage it can cause when it lands. On top of that, the product itself is more likely to sustain damage on impact. A rack safety system like BeastWire helps ensure that no product leaves the racking unless the warehouse staff picks it.

 

mesh-guarding

 

Why BeastWire Mesh Guarding?

BeastWire has advantages over both safety netting and other types of steel mesh. One of these qualities is the raw strength of the product itself. Safety netting, which is commonly used on the back side of a rack system, is only made to stop small items. This means that with rack systems supporting large loads, it is only marginally effective. Over time, safety netting can also fall prey to fraying and cutting by loads with sharp edges, whereas steel mesh can withstand abuse from sharp, heavy product. The fully framed design utilized by BeastWire has been shown by independent studies to be twice as strong as unframed panels.

 

mesh-guarding

 

Aside from the quality and strength of its materials, one of the features that sets BeastWire apart is the innovative bracket design. BeastWire’s riveted bracket can save up to 90% on installation, and secures the rack system with a safety drop pin. The drop pin would be easy to overlook, but is a key safety feature. With the drop pin in place, the panel cannot be dislodged from the upright unless the safety pin is deliberately removed first. This eliminates the possibility of a panel accidentally disengaging and harming people or product.

 

 

To meet the needs of a wide variety of applications and pallet rack styles, BeastWire has four different bracket design options: fixed, adjustable, universal, and pivot. Each of these bracket designs lets the mesh panels function at their best for that particular system.

Pallet Rack Wire Backing

No matter the size of your bay, BeastWire rack safety panels can cover your needs. Panels can stack to cover the needed vertical coverage, and a single panel can span a width of 10’. For bays wider than 10’, simply join two BeastWire panels together using the 4” splice channel.

 

Wire Mesh Guarding Applications

So, how do you know when it’s a good time to use BeastWire mesh guarding on a pallet rack system? Any time wire mesh guarding can increase the safety of a warehouse is a good time to install BeastWire rack backing panels. 

Here are a few examples of common applications for BeastWire mesh guarding:

  • When storing unbalanced loads that exceed 25 lbs. or objects with sharp edges
  • On racking located next to pedestrian traffic lanes
  • On any racking tunnels that sit above aisles with personnel traffic
  • When a row of racking sits directly next to a wall, column, pipes or machinery
  • In a flue space where items would become trapped if they were to fall

Questions?

Want to know more about the latest addition to our quick ship product offering? Give us a call! We have all the information you need on pricing, sizes, applications, availability and more.

Remember, our goal is to help you!

 

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