Workplace injuries are unfortunately all too common across Ireland. Where minor accidents can result in minor injuries or damage to stock, they can at times prove fatal. Protecting employees from harm should be at the forefront of any employer's mind, ensuring the best safety standards in their premises. High standards come down to proper planning and the correct equipment in place where required.
According to the HSA annual review of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities, 53 workers were killed in work-related accidents between 2019 and 2020. When looking at warehouse , transportation and storage and retail and trade sectors specifically there was a combined 7 lives lost.
In terms of non-fatal accidents, a staggering 857 cases were reported where there was a reported 'loss of control of objects, machines or vehicles'.
Protective equipment guards staff against harm while protecting critical workplace assets from damage. Of course, accidents are not always completely preventable, but protective equipment gives employees the best possible safety while at work. One of the critical areas that require protection is pallet racking. Pallet racking refers to the steel beams and shelving commonly used to house stock in warehouses or storage facilities.
Why pallet racking needs to be protected
As mentioned in the article above, 12% of the fatal injuries reported in 2020-2021 occurred because of moving, flying or falling objects. As pallet racking can house large amounts of products and are at the work vehicle level, they are susceptible to impact at all times.
Damaged pallet racking can collapse whole stock, putting employees at high risk of falling objects. Protecting pallet racking at the base will result in a lower risk of racking damage, especially from forklifts or reach trucks.
Rack protection aims to prevent collapsed racking at the base and protect warehouses from large scale damage or injury. However, damaged racking can also have a domino effect if it begins to collapse - one small section could collide with another until warehouses are destroyed, or infrastructure is severely impacted. In addition, falling stock can severely injure employees if struck, resulting in unfortunate deaths in severe cases.
Source: HSA annual review of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities 2019-2020
What are the causes of collapsed pallet racking
Pallet racking is generally damaged through impact from work vehicles. Forklifts or reach trucks can cause significant damage to any warehouse asset in themselves. Damage usually comes from several ways, including
● Higher vehicle speeds - as with road vehicles, there is less time to react at higher speeds. Slower forklift driving can result in reduced impacts and smoother forklift operation.
● Performing vehicle lifting tasks too fast - forklift or reach truck lifting operations should be performed slowly and smoothly. Lifting loads too quickly can result in unwanted movements and higher impact risk.
● Lifting unsafe loads or unbalanced pallets - always check pallet loads before lifting. Unbalanced pallets are at risk of toppling onto racking. Unusual points on the pallet may damage racking if impacted.
● Lack of operator concentration - drivers should have the utmost attention when lifting pallet loads. A split-second lack of concentration can result in injury or damage.
● Unskilled drivers operating machinery - ensure all drivers and operators are fully trained to lift pallet loads and work as safely as possible in the warehouse.
● Racking is not checked regularly - pallet racking should be routinely checked for even the slightest damage. Small amounts of damage may appear insignificant; however, this can wear further over time.
●Racking is not installed correctly - all racking should be installed by a professional and should include the correct certification on completion.
How should rack protection be designed?
Some key factors about the area may determine the rack protection's design. When choosing rack protection designs, consider -
- What type of vehicles are operating in the area
- How frequent the vehicle traffic is
- At what angle can the racking be impacted at
Steel racking protectors are among the most common protection designs in Irish warehouses. The steel design is suitable for use with most work vehicle types. Generally, they will also be designed with a bright yellow powder coating to ensure vehicle operators see the objects in question. Steel designs are usually ground mounted between the vehicle and the racking. In addition, plastic or rubber designs can be installed onto the racking beams themselves, reducing employees' risk of head injuries.
Right-angle or L-shaped protectors can surround the racks and deflect the impact away from the frame. Other suitable options include 360-degree style protectors to protect rack bases from all angles. This may be better suited to central racking points at risk of impact from any angle.
Flexible barriers also allow more of the impact to be absorbed. These designs are highly suited to the busiest warehouses and the heaviest work vehicles.
Using Rack Protection to Reduce Costly Warehouse Accidents
Racking protectors are critical in protecting employees and physical assets.
Firstly, rack protectors can significantly reduce the risk of damage to pallet racking. Damaged pallet racking can result in falling stock, which could cause fatal injury to employees. Exposed damaged parts can also harm employees via cuts or abrasions if not fixed quickly. Essentially rack protection puts itself between the impacting vehicle and the racking, thus absorbing the impact as much as possible and deflecting away from the unit. Human life is the most valuable asset in any workplace, and this is an essential part of warehouse safety.
Secondly, aside from harm to employees, rack protection can also reduce the risk of damage to assets. Damaged assets and infrastructure can result in expensive repair costs, whether it is the work vehicle, the racking or nearby infrastructure.
Lastly, the above protection can help warehouses to avoid serious downtime. Damaged racking may result in essential repairs that may interrupt everyday operations. Having rack protection in place prolongs racking life and helps warehouses maintain total working capacity at all times while avoiding missed business.
Rack protection is a crucial part of warehouse safety. While rack protection does not stop the issue of unfortunate accidents in the workplace, it can help drive accident rates down. Contact our sales team for more information on our full warehouse protection range and boost your warehouse safety today.