5 Pallet Rack Accessories that Make Your Racks Safer and More Efficient
What can you do to enhance selective racking?
How can you turn part of your rack into a different type of storage? What kinds of safety equipment can you install to prevent damage, maintain flue space or eliminate falling items? Let’s take a look at some options.
#5: Install roll-out shelves to make each-picks more ergonomic
Reaching into floor-level rack bays to pick a single carton or piece is such an ergonomic problem that OSHA released specific guidelines on the subject.
Most warehouses store floor-level pallets and many use them for carton picks. Workers have an easy go of it when the pick is near the top front of the pallet. But as the pallet empties, they have to bend beneath a steel beam and pull something–perhaps something heavy–from deep on the pallet.
There are three primary issues:
- Bending beneath the beam is a formula for back injuries.
- Pulling something from the pallet or container compounds the problem–the worker is already in a compromising position.
- It’s easy to raise up and hit that steel beam with the back of your head.
One solution is to install roll-out pallet shelves. They can be loaded by forklifts, and then easily accessed by sliding them in and out. Even the very back carton on the very bottom layer is easily available–and the worker can get it by using proper lifting techniques, which isn’t possible when he’s stooped beneath a steel beam. It’s even better for picking components from steel bins or wire containers, since those are often difficult to grab and grasp while bent over.
#4: Use rack frame post protectors
It’s unavoidable: your rack will be hit by a forklift, jarring the beams, shocking the load and damaging the structural steel, maybe even knocking product off the beam. Most importantly, it may eventually cause a dangerous and highly expensive collapse.
We’ve discussed the various rack protection options before, but we really like the RamGuard, a heavy rubber guard that absorbs shock and resists damage. We’re also fans of basic steel protectors, which bolt to the floor to deflect impacts. Shock absorbing bolt-down guards are also very good. Whatever you use, it’s always a good investment to protect your frames.
Damaged frames can lead to extremely dangerous and costly rack collapses. Protecting all posts isn’t costly and can save you plenty.
#3: Back-stop your racks–you have plenty of options
Drivers make mistakes. They’re busy, stressed out, working hard and trying to hit deadlines. It’s almost guaranteed that even the best will have an off moment, and that can happen at the wrong time. If you’re lucky, it’s just a damaged rack, lost stock or cracked wall. If you’re not, someone gets hurts.
When a driver pushes a pallet too deep into the rack structure, several things can happen, most of them bad:
- The pallet can push through and damage a wall if the rack is installed against one.
- The pallet can push through and strike the rack behind it, damaging that rack, itself or the load. It can also push the pallet on the other side off into an aisle, causing major damage and potentially hitting someone else working in that aisle.
- The pallet can be caught or snagged on some part of the rack structure.
- The load can dump, damaging it or hurting someone if it falls on them.
One of the best ways to reduce push-through accidents is to create resistance, either with straps or stops that constrain how far you can push the pallet into the rack structure. That extra bit of warning can make all the difference. Some alternatives include full-width pallet stops and rack safety straps. There are plenty of ways to go about it, and all of them can be deployed in the right situation. For single-deep rows against walls, floor-mounted pallet stops can also be used to protect facility walls from cracks and crashes.
#2: Prevent falling items by guarding the back of your storage aisles
Heavy things stored at height are dangerous if they fall.
When they fall, it can be from 20 feet or more in the air. Combine heavy weights and high velocities and you’re going to see damage–or worse, injuries. Full coverage is needed, especially for rack bays that overlook work areas, busy aisles or walkways. Poor loading, impacts, badly-formed loads, damaged pallets, seismic activities, errors in pallet retrieval and more can dislodge loads and cause accidents.
What can you do to prevent falling items?
Safety measures like rack safety netting and wire rack backing reduce the risks. These are extremely strong systems with high capacities that can handle dropped loads and keep everyone below safe and sound in the event of an incident. You can read the critical differences between these options if you aren’t sure which fits your needs.
Steel pallet stops and rack safety straps are also useful to prevent these types of accidents. The method you use depends on your drivers, racks, loads and risk tolerance. Steel systems are rigid, while straps and nets are flexible, but can still handle heavyweight capacities, such as big cartons or even at times full pallets. There are also options like laser tine guides and wireless cameras that help your drivers see, even when they’re loading pallets into very high bays, where the job is harder and the visibility much worse.
#1: Transform a bay or two of your rack system into flow storage
One of the best decisions we’ve seen many companies make is to move picks from static shelving to carton flow. Some larger operations, with thousands of picks every day, do this system-wide. Others just need a few bays of flow storage to meet their needs, and opt to retrofit their racks with carton flow. This tactic lets you designate a few bays for carton flow, often those at aisle ends. In these cases, these few bays of additional flow storage can make a big productivity difference.
For the right SKUs in the right situation, transforming pallet bays into flow storage saves the two big things you need to save: steps and space. Full-width rollers can be dropped into existing beams. You can add shelves by adding more beams and more tracks, so long as you have the vertical space. Leave the upper bays for bulk pallet storage and you have easy, high-density storage and picking.
See more: flow rack/pallet rack configurations
Scott Stone is Cisco-Eagle's Vice President of Marketing with more than thirty years of experience in material handling, warehousing and industrial operations. His work is published in multiple industry journals an websites on a variety of warehousing topics. He writes about automation, warehousing, safety, manufacturing and other areas of concern for industrial operations and those who operate them.