Case Study

Why Domino Rack Collapses Need Not Be Worst Warehouse Nightmare

After warehouse fires every manager’s worst nightmare is a domino-style racking collapse but in one sense the latter is worse. Fires can be quickly detected and contained by sprinklers and other devices, but total racking collapses cannot when, for example, forklifts hit upright posts (legs) and that is where RCP’s* patented, unique safety system comes in. Until five years ago all pallet protection outside of best-practice measures depended on post protectors and guard rails but these afforded very limited post protection to no more than about 1.2mt above ground. The safety system, however, suitable for both new builds and retrofits, uses steel cables suspended from roof structures to the upright aisle posts, so that it does not transfer the compromised rack load but stops it leaning past the point of no return, thus preventing progressive rack collapse. 

One of contracts, for garden shed producer, Kybotech, of Worksop, whose 20,000+ pallet store has a top beam height of 14mt, served by Bendi articulated forklifts in 2.6mt wide aisles. Pallet weights are typically 600 kg and some are special sizes for abnormal loads. Kybotech sells both to the trade and public on timed deliveries, which stresses the importance of uninterrupted shipments. Before the Rack Collapse Prevention's installation Kybotech’s racking safety measures comprised routine inspections and rack leg guards, very common throughout warehousing. Previous rack damage was dents from small impacts on the lower legs, which if undetected can cause rack failure. So why did Kybotech feel the necessity to step outside the safety norm? “Safety for its employees was paramount above all else,” explained Craig Atwell, RCP’s managing director. This is commendable but it also makes sound financial sense. Whatever extra safety measures may cost the cost of an accident, like total racking collapse, is far higher and may not be fully covered by insurance. In certain situations, like a large charity’s warehouse responding to an emergency call, a total racking collapse would be unthinkable in terms of potential loss of life.

Trying to measure the immediate cost of a total racking collapse is easy enough and will largely be covered by insurance but will the insurance pay out for the consequential costs, like permanent loss of business through failed timed deliveries? And if it can be shown that the warehouse operator was seriously negligent in a fatality any hefty fines to be paid would unlikely be covered. Moreover, future insurance premiums would soar. “Insurance companies would look to the bare minimum and challenge continuation costs,” added Craig.

With our safety system in place warehouse operators could expect noticeable insurance premium reductions, given that total stock loss has been eliminated and therefore this should be reflected against risk.

UK racking collapses involving fatalities are rare, about one a month, but serious injuries are measured in their hundreds and there is at least one major rack collapse every week. The main causes of rack collapse can be summarized as: 1) inadequate design, 2) incorrect installation, 3) overloading at pallet locations, 4) damage, 5) truck impacts, 6) supporting floor failure, 7) environmental or chemical deterioration, 8) change of configuration away from which the racking was originally designed, 9) poor weight distribution on pallets or pallet failures. There is a 10th but that only applies in earthquake-prone zones.

Good advice on all angles of racking safety can be had from the UK’s Storage & Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) and HSE.