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BACKGROUNDER

Blitz Targets Racking and Storage Hazards

  • Issued: October 27, 2011
  • Content last reviewed: October 2011
  • See also: Bulletin

Ministry of Labour inspectors will focus on hazards involving racking and storage systems at industrial workplaces in November.

The increased enforcement is part of the province’s Safe At Work Ontario strategy, launched in June 2008.

Ministry industrial inspectors will check for hazards involving the installation, use and maintenance of racking and storage systems.

Pallet racks are commonplace in warehouses, distribution centres, retail operations, and manufacturing plants. Usually made of steel, pallet racks often support heavy loads which may collapse if improperly installed or used. This can lead to serious injuries or death for workers.

Between Jan. 1, 2006 and Dec. 31, 2010, three workers died and 45 others received serious injuries involving racking and storage, according to Ministry of Labour data.

Examples of safety issues involving racking and storage include:

  • poor storage rack design
  • incorrect installation and assembly of racking system
  • structural problems with the floors or walls of the storage area such as uneven floors and overloaded supporting structures
  • concrete floors with cracks and breaks around the racking unit anchors resulting in racking that is not level
  • poor/inadequate storage rack maintenance and repair
  • incorrect use of racking or overloading
  • lack of regular inspection and maintenance program, and
  • products sticking out the back of the racking.

Deficiencies can lead to:

  • partial or total failure/collapse of racking systems
  • forklifts colliding with racks causing material to be displaced or causing potential damage to the racking itself
  • material falling through the back of the racks
  • high floor vibration at forge shops causing loads to crawl and fall off the rack if not properly secured

Blitz Focus

Ministry inspectors will visit workplaces where racking is commonly used (such as warehouses, distribution centres, retail operations and manufacturing plants) based on various risk factors:

  • Identified as being high-priority due to possible hazards involving racking and storage
  • Where complaints have been received, and
  • Where there is a poor compliance history.

They will focus on industrial pallet (skid) racks that store heavy materials. Mechanical lifting devices, such as forklifts, are required to place the loaded pallets onto the racking.

The racking is typically organized in horizontal rows with multiple levels. The framework is made of steel, wood, aluminium or concrete.

Inspectors will take enforcement action, as appropriate, for any contraventions found under the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations.

Priorities

Inspectors will focus on the following key priorities:

Installation and Selection: Inspectors will check that racking and storage systems have been selected and installed to ensure the safety of workers.

Condition, Maintenance and Repair: Inspectors will check that racking and storage systems are properly maintained and repaired.

Use of Racks: Inspectors will check that lift trucks are being driven and products are being loaded and unloaded on pallet racks in a safe manner.

Forklift Activity: Inspectors will check that appropriate lift trucks are being used for the workplace and tasks required. This includes checking that the trucks’ capacity is sufficient to carry the required loads, and that narrow forklifts are being used for narrow aisles.

Other Related Issues: Inspectors will check that aisles are free of obstructions, lighting is adequate and pallets are in good condition.

Matt Blajer, Communications Branch, 416-326-7405

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