Pallet Rack Protection FAQ

Is protecting my pallet racking important? How do I protect my pallet racking? What does OSHA say about protecting my pallet racking? All good questions! This blog's goal is to shed some light on these issues and answer some of our customers' most frequently asked questions. 

Is Protecting My Pallet Racking Important?

Protecting a pallet rack system is most often an afterthought. Material Handling designers, integrators, and suppliers often never bring up the issue. Why not? One thing is for certain - there is a large segment of the material handling industry that is geared toward inspecting and repairing damaged racking. Consequently, there is a great deal of damaged racking in the market place. In fact, I will go as far as saying nearly all locations that utilize pallet racking have some damaged racks. 

The McGee Storage and Handling team is often asked, "Is it okay? Is it safe?" The simple answer is "I don't know – it's not in its original condition so I certainly can't definitively tell you it's okay." I don't gamble – the next line must be "I recommend you unload the racking of its contents and we will help you return your damaged rack to original or better than original condition. Keep in mind, rack protection will certainly help, but it may not eliminate rack damage altogether.

How Do I Protect My Pallet Racking?

There are two primary types of pallet rack protection:

  • Upright post protection
  • End of rack protection 

There are so many different styles and theories about post protection it will make your head spin. The proper way to look at this is to understand that the post has three exposed sides and can be hit on all three either by lift equipment or pallets (crate etc.) Ideally you want a wraparound style with anchored protection that also will deflect impact.

  • Bolt-on style is good for deflecting, adds some strength to the upright, and is a good choice if concrete anchoring is not a viable option.
  • Plastic or composite style protection is good for head-on blows but will get dislodged when impacted from the side. I've yet to see a plastic or composite install that doesn't have several of the units laying askew around the racks.

The lighter, cheaper steel wrap-around protectors should be avoided because you will end up with a bent "protector" damaging your rack and a floor torn up from concrete anchoring. The best performer I have come across is Interlake Mecalux's wrap around style anchored to concrete.​

End of rack guards are often overlooked but it is where the most consistent damage is located. Standalone Guard Rail works really well and another less expensive option is the aforementioned Interlake Mecalux's wrap-around guards connected with a 4-inch channel.

What Does OSHA Say About Protecting Pallet Racking?

Surprisingly - not much! They don't have any regulations regarding rack protection but certainly rack damage is addressed in OSHA's General Duty Clause. Section 5 (a)(1) requires employers to provide employees with a place of employment that "is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees." A rack falling down due to damage certainly is a concern and is addressed in this clause but OSHA recognizes that this is not enough regarding pallet rack damage, so they defer to RMI (Rack Manufacturers Institute) ANSI 16.1 Specification. To summarize this specification, the rack system operator is responsible for the maintenance and repair of their storage system. When damage is recognized, the product should be unloaded and removed from service and repaired or replaced. The repair must be made by qualified installers and no altering of the racking components should be done without direction from a supervisory engineer.

In summary – damaged racking is a safety concern, and the proper protection of the uprights and end of racks is a smart investment in your employees' safety and lowers the maintenance/repair/replacement costs of your pallet racking system.

How are your pallets, cartons, and orders moving about your facility? If there is a person physically pushing or driving your product about, call McGee today for a free consultation

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