Best Practices for Inspecting Pallet Racks

Industrial pallet racks are an indispensable component of nearly any warehouse, which makes it all the more important to have them inspected on a regular basis. Any form of damage or incorrect loading can easily turn this valuable asset into a dangerous liability. Through thorough inspection and general upkeep, you can ensure that your pallet racks remain in excellent condition throughout their natural lifespan.

The following offers several best practices to follow when inspecting pallet racking systems for signs of damage or fatigue.

Inspect Rack Uprights

Rack uprights are especially vulnerable to accidental strikes by forklifts and other material handling equipment. Such strikes, regardless of how minor the damage, can jeopardize the structural integrity of the entire rack by reducing the upright capacity for that particular section.

When inspecting the rack uprights for signs of damage, place a steel straightedge on the surface of the damaged rack upright's concave save, with the straightedge centered over the damaged section. Measure the gap between the straightedge and upright. If the gap is more than 5 millimeters wide (or 3 millimeters for uprights bent in the plane of the frame), the damaged upright should be replaced.

Here are some extra tips for inspecting rack uprights and other related structural hardware:

  • Inspect the horizontal bracing for any signs of twisting, bending or other structural damage.
  • Check the uprights for any sign of rust and corrosion. Keep in mind that the paint acts as the first and best line of protection against oxidation. If the paint is chipped or scratched, that could allow moisture and oxygen to come into contact with the bare metal and spread to other parts of the racking system.
  • Make sure the footplates are securely anchored to the floor. Any missing or loose bolts or fasteners should be noted immediately.
  • Carefully inspect the column protectors for any signs of damage. The column protectors are designed to be the first line of contact against accidental collisions. If the protectors are damaged, remove them and inspect the rack upright for any signs of damage.

Inspect Loading Beams

Loading beams are just as vulnerable to damage from forklifts and other material handling equipment as rack uprights. In addition, overweight or misloaded pallets can also cause damage to the beams. Failure to replace a loading beam after it's been damaged could result in a collapse, with potentially serious or even fatal injury to follow.

You should pay attention to vertical and lateral deflection of the beam. While this occurs naturally under load, the amount of vertical and lateral deflection normally experienced by the beams under load should not exceed a certain recommended deflection amount. Some experts recommend 1/180th of the total span length while others recommend 1/200th or even 1/1000th of the span length. The deflection should also disappear when it's relieved of its load.

Don't forget to check the loading beams for signs of collision damage. Even seemingly benign scrapes and dings should warrant a thorough inspection of the beam. Note any missing clips, bolts or attachment pins, as this can compromise the loading beam's load bearing capability. The loading beams should also be seated securely into and attached to the uprights.

What to Do After Identifying Structural Problems

If you see collision damage or signs of rust and corrosion on any portion of the pallet rack, you should see to it that the offending portion of the rack is replaced as soon as possible. In cases of severe damage, all pallets should be carefully offloaded from the pallet rack and the area cordoned off to other material handlers until the rack can be properly serviced.

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