The installation of a pallet racking system design follows engineering drawings unique to the facility. Those drawings also play an ongoing role in the safe operation of a warehouse or distribution center and should always be readily available.
“The operator of the facility should have a copy of the drawings on file, and those drawings should be readily accessible for several reasons,” says Arlin Keck, P.E., Corporate R&D Engineer at pallet rack manufacturer Steel King. “The drawings provide essential information to guide regular inspections and referring to them ensures that damage to racking is fixed in a manner that maintains the structural integrity intended by the design.”
Pallet Racking System Designs for Specific Use
For ongoing operations, the drawings should be referred to when a change of use is being considered.
“The drawings typically show the maximum product sizes and design loads that are expected to be placed on the racks,” Keck notes. “Overloading the racks creates an immediate safety risk to the workers and raises the potential for damage to both the racking and the product being stored,” he adds.
Before changing the use of pallet racking, the drawings should be reviewed to determine whether the racking was designed to support the weight of the new pallet loads. Besides just checking the load capacity, racking systems may have additional shelf accessories designed to accommodate variations in pallet sizes, safeguard against pallet misplacement, or facilitate the loading and unloading of the pallets within the racking.
The drawings also should be checked when a change in pallet racking system design style is being considered. “The load rating capacity of shelf beams and associated accessories is based on a uniformly distributed load placed on the shelf. Changes in pallet size or pallet style can alter the design capacities of accessory items such as shelf decking materials,” Keck says. “You want to make sure any new pallet types are compatible with the racking accessories.”
Row Conversions on Selective Racking
Another time to check the design drawings is when a selective racking system with back-to-back or double-face rows is converted to stand-alone or single-face rows. “Often, the design and anchoring of the uprights for a single-face row differ from the design and anchoring of the uprights for a double-face row,” Keck notes. “So converting double-face rows into single-face rows on the fly without input from a qualified design person – who will want to look at the drawings – is not recommended.”
Capacity Changes When Components Are Altered
Altering rack components also can impact load capacity – again requiring that pallet rack system design drawings be checked to determine how the alterations will affect the ability – as all components of a rack system factor into the capacity. The location of beams – or shelf levels – is noted on the drawings. Alterations can include the removal of lower-level beams to allow taller products to be stored on the floor. “Deleting the lowest beam levels in a row may result in a 25% reduction in the load stored within the bay; however, even more significantly, removal of a beam could reduce the rated capacity of the upright by 75%,” Keck notes.
“Changing the beam level profile without reviewing the drawings, or first checking with a qualified design person, is a risky proposition,” he says. “The qualified design person most likely will want to see the drawings, which is another reason to have them on file and readily available.”
Review Drawings Prior to Inspections
Pallet racking system designs should be inspected routinely for damaged components, missing hardware, and broken anchor bolts. Thorough inspections should be done at least annually, but operators should continually watch for structural problems. An inspection should start with a review of the design plans.
“By doing an initial review of the installation prints before commencing the inspection, the inspector can have a good idea of what to look for, including unauthorized re-arrangement or re-profiling of the racks, or overloading of the system,” Keck notes.
If your pallet racking system design has capacity labels, an inspection could also involve the review of the label information to ensure it matches data in the pallet rack drawings.
Design drawings might not be available when used racking is acquired, and it’s unlikely the purchaser could obtain drawings from the pallet rack manufacturer. “In that case, the operator might need to hire an engineer to create drawings,” Keck says.
Are your pallet rack system design drawings on file and readily accessible? They should be on hand and regularly referred to as part of safe operating procedures.