Keep Pushing: Safety Guidelines For Pushback Rack Systems
Reduce damage by following best practices
Pushback rack systems provide a unique way to gain more space in a crowded warehouse. They store pallet loads on both sides of an aisle at higher cubic densities, approximately 25% to 65% greater than selective racking. What that means is loads can be stored and retrieved from the same aisle, reducing the number of aisles needed. Freed space, that’s the name of the game with pushback rack.
Because pushback rack systems rely on the pallet loads themselves to impel each load and cart in the series up the lane as they are stored—and on gravity for the loads and carts to descend during removal (as opposed to a mechanized device)—pallet placement must be precise. A lane of pallets also generates a significant amount of force, particularly on the load at the pick face, and of course the force is greater the heavier the load. With that in mind, it’s important to ensure operators are well versed in the best practices for safe loading and unloading a lane of pushback rack.
Keep your loading safe and consistent
Load a pushback system only with the pallet style or type it was designed for. Not consistently doing this can negatively affect system performance and increase the risk of a pallet not being seated securely in the lane. Additionally, loads should be placed on undamaged pallets and secured properly to prevent products from falling off during loading or unloading.
Practice good loading techniques. To start the safe placement of the first pallet into a pushback lane, position the lift truck squarely to the opening. The operator should lift the load 3-4 inches above the top cart, centering the pallet over the cart (or over an optional centered stop device positioned on the lane’s front beam). When using a slope cart system, the best practice would be to tilt the forks up slightly to match the pitch of the rail. Once you’re in the properly aligned position, the pallet is inserted into the system until ideal placement is reached. At that point, make sure you lower your pallet load slowly to prevent an impact that could cause the bottom boards to break.
Confirm pallet alignment: Another best practice is to confirm that the pallet is aligned properly before removing the forks after lowering. The forks can then be removed slowly, maintaining the proper angle of alignment to prevent damage to either the pallet or the racking.
Add pallets carefully: When adding additional pallets to the bay, make sure the load is raised approximately 4 inches above the cart. This ensures that the next pallet makes contact with the one already loaded in the system ahead of it, allowing the new pallet to push against the loaded pallet instead of the load itself. Doing this will help to prevent product damage and hang-ups. From here, the process repeats with the new pallet placed as instructed prior to slowly lowering it and removing the forks. The final pallet placed in the lane will rest on the pushback system’s rails and behind the optional beam pallet stop device if used.
Don’t push against resistance: If you encounter resistance when inserting pallet loads, you should stop the loading process and inspect before continuing. One possible reason behind this kind of stoppage is improper pallet centering or positioning, which can cause the pallet to snag on another cart or hit the uprights alongside the lane. No matter if that’s the reason, or if you need to clear debris, pushing against a stuck cart can only cause damage.
Unloading requires focus and safe practices
Pushback systems require as much attention when unloaded as they do during the loading process.
- To ensure safe and proper removal of a pallet from a pushback lane, the forklift should first be aligned square to the rack face with the forks tilted up slightly to match the upward slope of the system prior to entering the fork openings.
- With the pallet on the forks, you’ll want to make sure it is lifted about 4 inches prior to backing out of the system.
- The speed of the forklift as it backs out with a load is another critical factor to consider, as this is what controls the descent speed of the subsequent pallets and carts. You want load removal to be both controlled and no faster than the speed of the subsequent pallets as they flow forward in the lane. If a forklift exits with its load too quickly, it could cause the following loads to advance too fast, resulting in a collision with the front of the system and causing damage to the racking. The impact may also jar the load, prompting boxes to come loose and fall—raising the risk of both injuries and product damage.