In a previous blog post, we discussed the importance of considering aspects inside the warehouse, beyond just the equipment being used, that can contribute to employee safety. In the post, we focused on the best practice of regularly conducting rack assessment inspections to identify and repair/replace damaged uprights, beams, and wire decks.
Understandably, rack damage is not the only area of the warehouse that can pose a safety hazard. Another potential safety area has to do with the material being stored in the racks. When not put away, stored, or secured properly, material in the racks could present a potential hazard for employees, visitors, and other inventory.
The following are six steps warehouse managers can take to help ensure security and safety around palletized storage.
1. Operator and Pedestrian Training. A core part of operator training is being able to put away palletized products into the rack properly. This includes aligning and setting the pallet in place, so it is stable and secure. Pedestrian awareness is also an important piece of a comprehensive safety program. Non-operators should be trained to look for improperly stored or secured inventory and embrace their role and responsibility in warehouse safety. They need to understand that being distracted or inattentive to any safety issue in the warehouse can quickly put them and others in harm’s way.
2. Rack Netting and Wire Mesh. Even if the palletized product is properly put away, conditions may occur that result in products falling from the rack and creating a hazard for anyone near the area. For instance, this could happen if the product is bumped when a nearby pallet is removed, or if product falls off the back of the pallet as it is being put away. Depending on the size and weight of the product being stored, heavy-duty wire rack back protection or netting can provide an effective barrier to prevent materials from falling from the rack.
3. Defined Walkways. Another way to help protect pedestrians from the potential hazard of falling products is to establish designated walkways that steer clear of certain areas or racking. This is often seen as one of the most cost-effective ways to increase warehouse safety. The walkways can be outlined and defined by guard rails, durable floor tape, painted lines, and UL-approved line and image projectors.
4. Clear Aisles. Along with ensuring rack aisles are wide enough for the types of forklifts used and the type of product stored, it is also important to make sure the aisles remain free of clutter and debris. If pallets are not adequately secured within the rack at floor level, they can create trip hazards and visibility issues. This can include improperly maintained palletized material like extraneous strapping, dangling shrink wrap, or even empty boxes that can create hazards. Additionally, material not fully inserted within the rack at eye level can also present a dangerous hazard to inattentive pedestrians.
5. Rack Capacity Limits. Racking systems have capacity limits, and not only is it important to match the rack capacity to the weight of stored inventory, but it is also important to adhere to that limit. Rack limits should be displayed and reinforced in operator training to help prevent accidental overloading.
6. Signage. Prominently displayed signage can help alert employees and visitors to potential safety hazards or remind them to be attentive to possible situations or issues, including marking designated walkways and posting rack capacity limits. Signage should be strategically placed to be well-lit and visible to both pedestrians and forklift operators.
Taking steps to prevent injury from improperly stored materials is important for the safety of employees and visitors, but if overlooked, it could cause accidents that result in significant injury. Whether the goal is to prevent products from falling to the floor or just keeping the aisles clear, there are several steps warehouse managers can take to strengthen the safety culture.