Working safely with storage racks

Storage racks are used in many industries. Moving materials on and off them puts workers at risk of overexertion, being hit by falling objects, and more. 

Photo of worker checking barcodes of stock in warehouse storage racks

Photo credit: iStock.com/shironosov

Recently I overheard a man at the coffee shop say he was going to install new storage racks in his workplace because a big load of something had come in.

He wasn’t talking to me, but I couldn’t resist the urge to chime in.

“Hey! I was just reading about storage racks because of my safety blog,” I told him. “Want me to send you a link to more information about some new regulations that will be in effect as of January 1, 2018?”

He laughed and said thanks, he would Google it. I hope he does. Then he’ll know about the new storage rack regulations from WorkSafeBC, which apply to “the installation, inspection, use, and maintenance of steel storage racks.”

What’s the issue with storage racks?

Storage racks are used in most if not all industries. We see them in distribution centres, warehouses, and manufacturing plants. And they could also be found in the back of some retail stores – for example, behind the thick plastic curtain that separates the staff side of grocery stores from shoppers.

Employers need to make sure their workers are safe while using storage racks.

    • Steel storage racks can be hazardous to workers if they aren’t properly installed or maintained: they can become unstable or collapse.
    • Moving things on and off storage racks puts workers at risk of slips, trips, falls, overexertion, and being struck by falling objects.
    • Inadequate maintenance, overloading, and unsafe loading practices increase the risks to workers.

A close call

The risks are real. While writing this, I was reminded of the story I heard from someone who worked in a warehouse of industrial electric motor controls in the ’80s. I wrote about him in my post Forklifts right and wrong way.

“I almost killed a guy,” said the worker, who asked to remain anonymous. “I tipped a 500-pound motor off the top of the storage rack with the forklift and it landed about a foot away from my coworker.” The coworker yelled, “Hey, be careful, dude!” 

Both were young workers at the time. Fortunately, it was a close call and not something worse.

Resources

For information on working safely around storage racks, details about the new regulations for steel storage racks, and related resources, visit WorkSafeBC’s page on storage racks.

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