We all know how important good health and safety practices are in the workplace – not only is it your legal responsibility to provide as safe a space as possible for your employees, but it also makes sense from a financial perspective. Accidents can cause missed days/lost hours, reduced productivity, increased staff turnover and damage to goods and equipment. An often-overlooked area of health and safety is the racking or shelving that you use, so we have written this guide to help you out.
The very first thing you need to think about is the installation of your racking or shelving system. You can hire an external expert to do this for you, or assemble and install the units yourself – either way, you need to do so with the health and safety of your employees at the forefront of your mind.
Make sure that the area you are installing in is clean and clear of any dirt, debris or other items that might impact the job.
Prepare a level surface – you can use levelling plates to help with this. Your racking needs to be perfectly level at the base: even the slightest unevenness will translate to a lean or sway at the higher levels.
Follow the instructions, even if you have installed racking and shelving systems before. It can be tempting to take shortcuts or assemble components out of order – resist this urge. The manufacturer has given you step-by-step instructions so follow them, for safety’s sake.
Once your new storage solution is ready to go, you still need to consider it when you review your health and safety procedures. Make sure that there are periodic inspections of each rack and shelf – ensure that any bolts are still tight and undamaged, that shelves and racks are not bending and that your system is still operating as it should do.
As part of your ongoing maintenance, you should also ensure that weight capacity limits are being adhered to. Overloading the entire unit or even just one shelf or rack can cause toppling or a collapse, potentially injuring your employees and certainly damaging stock, equipment and even nearby shelving systems. It is best practice to label each shelf and rack unit periodically with the maximum capacity to make it clear to anyone loading or unloading what the upper weight limit is – make sure that these labels are present, undamaged, and easy to see and understand. Also, make sure your employees know that, even if it looks as though a shelf is handling an excess load, there could be unseen damage to the structure of the unit.
You can be proactive in making sure your racking and shelving remains safe and undamaged by installing barriers and/or guard rails. These are usually placed at the ends and corners of aisles, and provide a physical shield against forklift trucks or pallet trucks crashing into your racking when they manoeuvre around your site.