Although day-to-day routine inspections of storage rack should be conducted by facility owners and employees to identify damaged areas—regardless of the severity—it’s also a good practice to engage an independent professional rack engineer to review the system. These professional reviews should be scheduled at a frequency determined by the system owner, as explained in RMI’s publication Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks. Further, they should also occur immediately after any event that increases the risk of damage to the rack—such as a forklift collision or a seismic event.
Whether the qualified engineer is employed by the original rack system manufacturer or by an independent inspection professional, there are certain, more subtle types of damage that are less likely to be detected by a non-engineer. For example, broken anchor bolts or loose connection points between beams and columns are not nearly as obvious as a significantly bent upright. Further, an experienced rack engineer is far more likely to identify unauthorized reconfigurations or structural modifications—such as removal of diagonal bracing—that might reduce the rack’s capacity or integrity.
Additionally, a professional rack engineer can easily interpret the original design documentation to ensure the rack’s current configuration and components match, as well as perform an in-depth review and take detailed measurements as part of an unbiased evaluation.
Ultimately, regular rack inspections performed by a professional rack engineer will ensure that the system supports the operation’s ability to store and retrieve material as quickly and safely as possible. Or, put another way, a safe rack system ensures productivity and minimizes cost—and that’s a best practice every facility owner can endorse.
Looking for more information on how to conduct rack inspections? Review Section 6.2 of RMI’s publication Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks for additional details about the inspection process.
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Throughout RMI’s two published guidelines—Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks and Guideline for the Assessment and Repair or Replacement of Damaged Rack—repeated references are made about the importance of using a qualified, experienced industrial steel storage rack engineer to confirm that the structure is designed or repaired properly.
Yet, there is no such thing as a professional storage rack engineering degree or certification. So how do you identify someone with these specific qualifications, and why should you bother?
The second part of that question is easy to answer: to ensure that the rack will perform as expected and keep personnel operating in and around the structure safe.
As for the first part, it’s important to ask for the engineer’s qualifications. How much experience does he or she have in creating storage rack designs—both in terms of years and number of projects? Also, ask about the type of rack design projects previously completed, as well as for references from customers. Unsure where to find a qualified rack engineer in your immediate area? Ask for referrals from other rack engineers.
Additionally, it might be helpful to understand how someone evolves from holding a professional engineering certification to becoming a qualified rack engineer. To gain that level of specialization, an engineering graduate trains under an expert rack engineer in an apprentice-type position. Not only does he or she learn from a senior level engineer who has extensive expertise in rack design, the engineer in training (and all other professional engineers seeking to maintain their certifications) takes additional continuing education courses in related areas. These might include the latest techniques in weld design or the newest design codes for steel structures.
Further, qualified rack engineers must stay up-to-date on the latest developments in RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, the standard for the safe design and installation of steel storage racks. They must also consistently demonstrate the ability to perform the calculations required to create a rack structure with components that correspond to a specific project’s load, intended usage and unique location. These include applicable seismic codes and state and local building requirements. All of these factors contribute to a rack engineer’s level of expertise—and the likelihood that the rack designs they create are safe.
Looking for independent validation that your industrial steel storage rack or welded wire rack decking manufacturer follows the RMI/ANSI specification? Those companies are R-Mark Certified, and a complete listing can be found here.
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Industrial steel storage rack owners are sometimes surprised to learn that the verification of the structure’s safety and design is governed by one or more local jurisdictions, such as state, county or local municipality. Additionally, this permitting and inspection process applies to rack installed or reconfigured both in new buildings and in existing structures.
Until a building official has verified that all code provisions are satisfied by the rack’s design documentation, a building permit will not be issued. Likewise, a certificate of occupancy won’t be issued until the completed installation is inspected. Owners who ignore such requirements—either willfully or accidentally—are at risk for fines or prosecution should their racking be found unpermitted.
The reason rack structures fall under building codes—including the International Code Council’s International Building Code (IBC) which is utilized by the many U.S. jurisdictions—is because their safe design, manufacture and installation depend on several building-specific factors. These include flooring, soils, anchoring, load type to be stored, handling equipment, and more. Geographic location and the potential for earthquakes in a region also impact rack design.
Notably, the IBC references RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks in section 2209.1 as the standard for safe design and installation of steel storage racks. The same specification is also referenced in the National Fire Protection Association’s NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code. Among the specific areas of inspection are confirmation of proper floor to rack anchoring, shop and field welding, fire protection flue spacing and egress distances.
For facility owners looking to ensure their rack installation complies with building codes, RMI recommends contacting the local building and planning department prior to commissioning a rack structure. Building inspectors should be considered a partner in the construction of the installation; they are an excellent resource to leverage for gaining a better understanding of the requirements, costs and the expected timeframe for plan review, permit processing, inspections, and final project approval.
Want more insights into how building codes and permitting pertain to racking? Check out these two previous posts: “How Do Building Codes Impact Rack Design And Installation?” and “Don’t Forget To Check Permitting Requirements For Your Proposed Rack Systems.”
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As a safeguard against the industrial steel storage rack falling down, anchor bolts are used to secure column base plates to the facility floor. Critical to the structural integrity of the rack, the anchors prevent the rack uprights from sliding out of position should they be impacted, as well as a measure to prevent the system from tipping. As detailed in RMI’s ANSI MH16.1-2012: Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks, section 1.4.7, “Column Base Plates and Anchors” and section 7.3, “Anchor Bolts,” their usage includes both aisle columns and interior or rear columns on all frames.
Both base plates and anchors are designed and engineered to resist forces, they are still vulnerable to a potential impact from a forklift at the base of a columns. Even in facilities that routinely train forklift drivers in safe operating practices, it is not uncommon for storage racks to be damaged accidentally by an impact or collision. This can potentially reduce the weight-carrying capability of the total system and increase the risk of a collapse.
The anchors located on the aisle-facing rack columns—as well as those at the end of a row—are at particular risk of being sheared off at the floor by the shifting baseplate as a result of a forklift impact. That’s because columns in those two areas are most prone to being clipped by a vehicle or its load should the driver cut the corner by turning too abruptly or not entering the storage position at a perpendicular orientation.
To limit the effect of a forklift impact on the anchors, there are many protection options including these three:
- Anchor Size and Placement: More or larger, heavier anchor bolts might be recommended by the manufacturer to secure the base plates of aisle-facing columns, or those at the end of an aisle. Further, anchor bolts can be “hidden” by installing them behind an aisle-facing column as a means of protection.
- Direct Column Protection: Typically applied to aisle-facing columns, these types of accessories include free standing steel plate column protectors wrapped around the face and sides of the rack column and factory welded to the base plates to secure them to the unit. Alternately, steel, foam or plastic guards can be attached directly to each column with bolts, rivets or straps after the rack installation is complete.
- Offset Column Protection: Intended to protect columns at the end of a rack row, these include concrete bollards or full-depth steel tubes bent into an inverted U-shape and anchored via steel base plates to the floor. Another choice is free standing, industrial modular guard rail set a short distance away from the racking and bolted to the floor.
Note, however, that although these attachments and options provide a greater degree of anchor protection, regular, ongoing forklift driver training and management is highly recommended. Additionally, measures such as maintaining adequate operational clearance within rack system aisles, keeping the aisle free of obstructions, and ensuring the facility is well-lit to maximize visibility will further reduce the chances of a forklift colliding with a rack.
Learn more about the full range of protective accessories available for racking installations in section 3.4.2 of RMI’s publication, “Considerations for the Planning and Use of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.”
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Whether an industrial steel storage rack is comprised of structural or roll-formed steel components, the welds created in their fabrication are critical to the system’s safe and reliable performance. That’s because a variety of conditions could increase the risk of a weld failing when the rack is abused or loaded at its rated capacity, possibly leading to a collapse. These include:
- Welding performed by an unqualified individual
- Welding that occurs in a facility without proper ambient temperature control
- A weld arc that doesn’t generate the necessary amount of heat to fuse the base metal and the welding material
- A weld that becomes contaminated during the process, or created on base metal whose surface was not properly cleaned prior to welding
How does a rack owner, therefore, know that the welds within the structure have been completed properly and contribute to the overall safety of the system? After all, even a visual inspection may not reveal a problematic weld joint.
That’s why the American Welding Society (AWS) has created numerous standards, codes and guidelines for both welders and welds created to fuse a broad array of materials—including structural. The organization also issues certifications for both individual welders and for the general manufacturing processes and procedures employed by a company to create different types of weld joints. All reputable rack manufacturers—including members of RMI—will adhere to these standards; buyers of new installations of storage rack can request copies of such certifications from the system’s manufacturer.
Those seeking to purchase used rack, however, may or may not be able to determine who the original manufacturer was of the structure. Without knowing the source of the original racking, it is likewise not possible to verify that the welding was performed by qualified, certified individuals adhering to AWS’ manufacturing standards.
Thinking of field welding a damaged rack structure? Read RMI’s blog, “Field Welding Versus Bolt Repair For Damaged Pallet Rack,” first.
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To keep installers safe when working in an elevated position of six feet or more when assembling an industrial steel storage rack, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for the usage of personal fall protection systems. As mandated in OSHA Standard Number 1910.140, these systems—including body harnesses and their lanyards and connectors—must be tied off at a point within the structure that is capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds of force in the event of a fall.
That’s a considerable amount of force that results in a shock transferred to the rack structure when the safety devices stop the installer’s fall. For that reason, it’s important to tie-off only to specific areas within a pallet rack—because not every area or component can withstand that degree of force.
For safety, when working in elevated positions, RMI recommends tying off using OSHA approved personal fall protection systems. The fall protection systems can typically be connected to the rack system in one of two different areas:
Best practice is to only tie-off at locations specified by a qualified engineer who has evaluated that these tie-off locations meet the appropriated OSHA capacities. Tie-off locations can be identified by the rack manufacturer’s engineering team on the system drawings.
Finally, although racking is typically installed by a contractor authorized or recommended by the rack’s manufacturer or supplier (as opposed to being installed by the system’s owner), it’s still important to be aware of the appropriate safety precautions in order to ensure they’re being followed.
Looking for ways to protect workers on elevated platforms? Click here for RMI’s recommendations for keeping workers on rack-supported platforms and pick modules safe.
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RMI has produced and released a new video offering some basic guidelines for inspecting, maintaining and repairing industrial steel storage rack systems to ensure a safe working environment. The video is targeted to both potential and current end users and owners of storage rack and runs less than four minutes.
Among the key points in the video are making sure that the rack system is maintained in its original configuration—including using the pallets that the system has been designed to support and the fork trucks it has been sized for—will minimize the risk of damage.
Additionally, if it is deemed necessary to reconfigure the current rack structure, the best practice is to return to the original engineer of record, or to engage a different professional rack design engineer prior to doing so. This ensures that the system’s load capacity can be maintained.
Should damage occur—typically due to a collision with a fork truck or an incorrect installation—the rack’s load carrying capacity is likely to be reduced. This puts the system at an increased risk of collapse. Instead, a decision must be made to repair or replace the damaged components; the video explores how to choose between the options.
Further, the video notes that a qualified rack engineer should be involved in the repair process to ensure that the obvious damage is repaired properly and to determine if the rest of the structure’s integrity has been affected. Other key points include a review of baseplate and anchor bolt spacing, ultimate capacity of the system after repair or replacement, and how documentation should be updated to reflect any changes.
This video is the third in a planned series of industrial steel storage rack safety videos. The first episode covered storage rack system selection; the second shared insights into installation and safety inspections.
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Last-in/first-out (LIFO) pushback racking systems (like the vast majority of industrial steel storage rack systems) are designed for use with specific pallet types, loads and rack configurations. For that reason, it is critically important to ensure that operators only load the pushback system with pallets approved for use within it. Not doing so can negatively impact the system’s safety, structural integrity and smooth operation because it increases the risk of a pallet not being seated securely on the cart within its lane.
Because they are engineered to utilize a combination of friction between the pallets and the pushback carts and rails (as well as physical skid stops and/or beam stops to keep pallets in place), care should be taken to maintain the integrity of each lane. Ice, lubricants or liquid on the pushback rails or carts can potentially reduce the friction between the pallet and the pushback system, allowing the pallets to slide forward. To prevent this, inspect the rails and carts periodically and clean as needed.
Further, because pushback rack systems often rely on the pallet loads themselves to push each load and its cart backwards into the lane as new ones are added, both pallet and load integrity are essential. Damaged pallets or those with broken, split or cracked bottom boards—or exposed fasteners—can cause load hang-ups within a lane. Likewise, so can loads that have not been properly unitized or stretch wrapped to ensure that the contents are secure. A pallet load with overhanging slip sheets, carton flaps, loose stretch wrap, improperly stacked cartons, or boxes that have been jarred out of position can easily snag within the system, causing a jam.
Finally, never mix load weights within a single lane of pushback rack, as it increases the potential for a heavier pallet to push a lighter one out of alignment or out of the system. That’s because different pallet weights generate different degrees of friction within the system, increasing the risk of failure, damaged product or injury.
Find out more about how to safely use pushback rack systems, here.
The post Why Are Pallets Important For Pushback System Safety? appeared first on RMI Safety.
Because they support high-throughput order fulfillment of single product—typically fast movers—some operations utilize pushback racking storage systems as part of their picking process. In order to ensure that pickers are able to perform their assigned tasks safely when working with a pushback system, there are a few recommended best practices. These guidelines include:
1. Always follow the recommended procedures published by the push back system’s manufacturer. Picking from systems deeper than two pallets is normally discouraged because the back pressure created by more than a single pallet may become difficult for an operator to control when removing empty pallets.
2. Picking from a pushback system should only occur at floor level to ensure operator safety. Likewise, the system should be positioned low enough for the operator to safely reach all cases without stepping on a partially empty pallet.
3. Pushback systems utilized for picking should have beam-mounted pallet stops installed at every pick face to ensure that a partially loaded pallet is securely held in place and not pushed forward by the loaded pallet behind it, potentially injuring the operator.
4. When a pallet is completely empty, the safest practice is for a forklift to remove it, rather than the operator manually lifting it by hand. This is because the forklift can far more easily control the speed at which the pallet is removed—and therefore the speed at which the subsequent pallet descends down the lane—than an operator. Additionally, removing an empty pallet by hand can place a high degree of ergonomic strain on the operator, who must bend down and lift it. Further, if there are any obstructions (such as a lift truck) behind the operator attempting to manually remove the empty pallet, the back pressure of the subsequent pallet might cause him or her to be pinned.
5. If an empty pallet must be removed manually (and the loads are not too great), the safest procedure is for the operator to first confirm that the aisle behind him or her is clear. Then, utilize proper lifting techniques to lift the front of the pallet above the pallet stop and slowly walk backward while dragging the pallet on the pushback rail. This allows the operator to use the empty pallet to maintain control of the speed of the descending load behind it.
To learn more about best practices in safe operation of pushback racks, click here.
The post Recommended Safety Practices For Case Picking Of Products Stored In Pushback Rack Systems appeared first on RMI Safety.
Released at ProMat 2019, RMI’s newest infographic offers an overview of the different available types of industrial storage racking and decking. It also details the benefits of each type of equipment, and the breadth of resources available from the Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI).
Racking, notes the graphic, delivers operations high storage density, high selectivity, high throughput, efficient picking and unloading, and immediate access to products—among other benefits. Decking benefits include pallet containment, small product storage, support for placement of irregular loads, and more.
The document also notes that pallet racks are among the most widely used type of storage solution in industries such as shipping and manufacturing. Further, it shares that the last decade has seen a total of expansion of available warehouse space by 1-billion square feet, bringing total U.S. warehousing space to 9.1-billion square feet.
RMI members represent the industry’s leading suppliers of industrial steel storage racks and related structural systems. They supply industrial rack solutions worldwide and in virtually every major manufacturing and distribution center. The organization was formed in 1958 and offers a variety of resources via its website at www.MHI.org/RMI.
Want your own copy of the RMI Rack Infographic? It’s available as a free download, here.
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