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Looking at a room full of pallet racking, it is easy to take it for granted.  Most people who work in a warehouse interact with such systems each and every day without giving a second thought to the planning, design, and engineering that went into the rack on which they stack pallets.  This is fortunate because it means that most likely those individuals have not encountered anything to make them consider the risks inherent with erecting pallet racking.  In truth, there is quite a bit that goes into the design, set-up, and maintenance of pallet racking in a warehouse or other facility. Below are three areas that need to be considered.

Rack Identification

The fact is that there are now dozens of brands of pallet racking and most of them look alike and fit together easily so that anyone can do it themselves.  The fact is that not everyone should do it themselves, or perhaps they should simply be aware that components that look almost identical are not necessarily the same.  If you have an old warehouse, or one in which rack has been installed after another facility closed, you probably have some mismatched components.  Everyone starts out with all matching components, but the facility manager who has to buy the rack for the expansion of the building (or even more likely the buyer in the Purchasing department) may find a better deal on another brand of racking.  This isn't inherently an issue so long as they take care to match up capacities and make sure that the components work together, but this doesn't always happen.  I have previously been assigned the grim task of identifying and determining the capacities of a variety of different types of rack in various facilities, and it can be a challenge.  On the Rack Identification page, I have compiled a number of resources to assist you in identifying the type(s) of rack you have in your facility.

Rack Identification Page

Rack Capacities

Clearly, it is important to know the amount that a particular pallet rack will support.  Overloading can result in any manner of dangerous situations, and the best way to ensure that this situation doesn't occur is to communicate to all operators the capacities of such racks.  In my experience, the guy who buys the rack never retains any documentation of the materials that were installed, or at least he doesn't keep it anyplace where it can easily be located later.  Under the best of circumstances, he or the installers will have labeled the racking after installation, but I have found this situation to be relatively rare.  Later then, when the safety manager comes to engineering and asks how much the racking can hold, then the exercise to make that determination begins.  If you are lucky, maybe the folks who sold and installed the rack are still around and maintain good records, but just in case, I have compiled capacity documentation from several manufacturers on the Rack Capacities page.

Rack Capacities Page

Rack Damage

There are no specific OSHA standards on pallet racking, as with many things, they simply reserve the right to object if they see things that they don't like. One of the first, and most obvious, things that will be looked at after an accident is the condition of the racking involved and the way that materials are stored in those racks. The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) largely governs the standards by which pallet racking components are designed and built, so that is a good place to begin if you have any questions about the definition of correct installation and usage.

Rack Capacities Page

The sites to which have been linked here contain information that may contain errors or misrepresentations, and Dan Bartlett Engineering LLC cannot take any responsibility for issues, damage, injuries, or any other negative consequences that occur as a result, either directly or indirectly, from the application of the information found on pages linked from here.  No information found on this or on any other page to which there is a link here can be used as a substitute for analysis of a pallet racking system by a professional engineer, licensed in the applicable jurisdiction.  If such an analysis is desired, the reader is encouraged to contact a licensed engineer or the manufacturer of the pallet racking in question to ensure that racking is safe and appropriately designed and installed.