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How to improve racking maintenance and safety in your workplace

Mississauga, ON – Results of a November 2011 inspection blitz of hazards involving racking and storage systems suggest many employers are falling short on ensuring equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good...


Mississauga, ON – Results of a November 2011 inspection blitz of hazards involving racking and storage systems suggest many employers are falling short on ensuring equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition, reports Workplace Safety & Prevention Services.

More positively, many employers appear to understand the value of a health and safety policy, and are fulfilling their duty under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to review their policy annually and develop and maintain an implementation program.

Storage racks, usually made of steel, often support heavy loads that may collapse if improperly installed or used. They’re common in warehouses, distribution centres, retail operations and manufacturing plants.

During the one-month blitz, ministry inspectors conducted 1,167 visits to 977 workplaces and issued 3,063 orders, including 118 stop work orders.

How workplaces were chosen for inspection

Inspectors checked workplaces where racking and storage systems are commonly used. The workplaces were selected based on various risk factors. Included were workplaces

– identified as being high priority due to possible racking and storage hazards

– where complaints have been received

– having a poor compliance history.

The top five workplaces visited were in the following sectors:

– food and beverage

– retail

– transportation

– wholesalers

– wood and metal fabrication.

While on site, the inspectors focused on five priorities. How would your pallet and racking system measure up? (See ‘How to improve racking in your workplace’ below for sample tips.)

Installation and selection. Have racking and storage systems been selected and installed to ensure worker safety?

Condition, maintenance and repair of racking and storage systems.

Use of racks. Are lift trucks being driven and products being loaded and unloaded on pallet racks in a safe manner?

Forklift activity. Are appropriate lift trucks being used for the workplace and tasks required? Is truck capacity sufficient to carry the required loads? Are narrow forklifts being used for narrow aisles?

Other related issues, such as aisle obstructions, lighting, and pallet condition.

Take note: inspectors’ findings may affect the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. If your workplace received orders following an inspection, expect to see an inspector again — or if your workplace experiences a serious racking incident.

How to improve racking safety in your workplace

Here are four sample steps to consider. Add to the list where possible to reflect conditions and circumstances in your workplace.

1. Conduct a thorough inspection of your racking system to establish a benchmark, and make repairs if required.

2. Create an inspection checklist for use during regular inspections. “In some workplaces,” says Chuck Leon, a material handling and warehouse specialist with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), “the racking systems may have been there longer than the employees who installed them or now use them. A checklist will help you focus on safety priorities. For example, are safety pins missing? Are safety bars in place? Are they bolted to the floor?”

3. Provide racking safety awareness training so that supervisors, lift truck operators, maintenance staff and joint health and safety committee members know what to watch out for. “Most certification training courses don’t cover off racking in hazard identification training,” warns Leon.

4. Give yourself enough time to inspect the racking system thoroughly. “If inspection staff have only an hour to go through the entire facility,” asks Leon, “will they see everything they need to see? In my experience, racking systems, loading docks and conveyors don’t always get checked thoroughly enough to truly protect workers and prevent damage to property. It all goes back to knowing what to look for.”