Rack collapses

NEWS & MEDIA | 07 June 2021

Rack collapses

The real reason why there are rack collapses in South Africa is that rack safety isn’t taken seriously.

The reasoning behind this accusation are as follows.

  1. I have seen rack load beams being grossly overloaded. I have seen oversized pallets being pushed hard against the upright frames to “just” allow a third pallet in a three-pallet bay. When it came to removing the “framed” pallets, the whole rack came down and brought the adjacent racks with it. I have seen load beams removed from racking and the bottom beam levels raised by operators without the manufacturer’s consent.
  2. Forklift and reach truck drivers generally do not fill in an incident report when they hit a rack frame or load beam. The beams above can be partially dislodged by the raised pallet on retrieving pallets and only collapse hours or days later. This problem can sometimes be identified by the absence of beam safety locks.
  3. Rack repairs can be done by non-specialist companies.
  4. Not enough care is taken over rack loading signs to make sure they are correct. Warehouse operators do not read the rack loading signs or know their importance.

5. All racking in South Africa is supposed to be SEMA approved, (Storage Equipment Manufacturer’s Association). SEMA is based in Birmingham UK but currently has nothing to do with policing racking standards and safety in South Africa.

Code of Practice for the use of Static Pallet Racking

The purpose of this Code is to provide information for Users of adjustable pallet racking, drive-in and
drive-through racking, to ensure the effective use of the equipment and that appropriate safety
standards are maintained.

6. Most warehouses do rack inspections on an annual basis if at all, to comply with their insurance policies. The exercise is a tick box one and warehouse managers are not interested in making sure that their racking is safe. Most of them do not know the first thing to look for when walking through their warehouses.   

7. Because of the operating conditions reputable South African rack suppliers over specify their product which can make them more expensive when compared with imported alternatives.  The quality and design of imported racking on the other hand can be superior to local equivalents.

8. 2%, if that, of South African warehouses conduct weekly rack inspections using the procedures as suggested by the SEMA rack users guide and using a simple rack testing tool

Inspections

Regular inspections of the storage system are
required to:

  1. Maintain safety in the workplace.
  2. Prevent and minimize the effect of
    accidents.

And, when there is a rack collapse, even years after installation, the warehouse management tends to blame the rack supplier. The supplier is essentially guilty until he proves his innocence, which can be difficult given the mess that follows a rack collapse.

I estimate that South African rack collapses could be reduced by at least 80% if the following were done conscientiously.

  1. All warehouse managers attended a one-day course on rack safety twice a year and had to pass a test.
  2. Every warehouse had an in-house trained rack inspector who checked the racks every week and filled out a report which was signed off by the warehouse manager, with the required repairs being actioned immediately.
  3. Racking industry i.e. manufacturers, installers and repairers adopt a standard, for example, the SEMA code by which South Africa enforces the standards properly with SEMA’s involvement from the UK.

3. All warehouse managers attended one day forklift management course annually and passed a subsequent test.  They could then identify dangerous forklift driving practices and police the drivers properly.