Possibly the biggest and most regrettable mistake rack users make is to overlook the damage that the outrigger of a forklift truck can do to a pallet rack column. We see many cases where a significant percentage of warehouse aisle columns have been severely damaged due to forklift “bumps” during the first year. No matter how high your forklift driver accuracy is, history tells a consistent story of column damage from outrigger abuse even in some of the safest warehouses in America.
The best time to consider this issue and avoid this mistake is when you purchase the pallet rack and plan your warehouse layout. There are many ways to address this problem and probably the most obvious method would be to make sure the aisles and bays are wide enough to accommodate normal forklift activity. Because of site constraints, it is not always possible to keep the uprights out of harm’s way and we recommend that you add a “straddle” or outrigger guard on the aisle columns for extra insurance. Another simple precaution that prevents front column twist when the outrigger grazes the front column is to add a second anchor bolt. If the column is allowed to twist, damage to the column above the straddle protector can occur and easily defeat the purpose of the guard. It is not too late to check existing rack and make sure all anchors are installed properly and install an additional anchor on aisle upright columns.
You may be thinking, “I wish I had read this blog BEFORE I bought my pallet rack.” If this is the case, there are many ways to address this problem even after the rack is installed. Probably the best method is to add bolt-on, retrofit straddles that can do the job. A few dollars per column for a retrofit guard is a whole lot better than the cost of a repair piece or the replacement price of an upright frame. The straddle protector retrofit guards are easy to install with no disruption to warehouse operation. It is always a good idea to be proactive when it comes to warehouse safety and maintaining the pallet rack is as important as the initial design. If the current rack does not have proper equipment to ward off forklift damage, it may be a good time to address the abuse caused by daily operations and install some type of column protection.