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Sam Myers

Because of the rise of online shopping and global trade, the warehouse and storage industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in both the American and global economy. 

Between 2007 and 2023, the number of warehouses in the United States grew from 14,600 to 22,000. And according to OSHA, the number of fatal injuries in the warehouse and storage sector increased by 23% from 2020 to 2021. In that same timeframe, warehouses had one of the highest non-fatal injury rates of any industry. 

In July of 2023, OSHA announced a three-year plan aimed at reducing and preventing workplace hazards in warehouses and distribution centers. This plan includes more comprehensive safety inspections, which include pallet racks. 

If you’re in the industry, you may be asking yourself “Is it time get my racks inspected?” 

Whether you’re a mom-and-pop facility, or a multi-national shipping operation, staying on top of your rack inspections is crucial to ensuring a safe environment for your workers and keeping your operations efficient. But with a rise in OSHA fines in recent years, are you doing enough to avoid these costly penalties?  

At Mazzella, we have decades of experience in designing, implementing, and inspecting state-of-the-art solutions for facilities nationwide, and we understand the inspection process can seem confusing and convoluted.  

To help you improve your warehouse solutions and make you OSHA compliant, our article will answer important questions, such as:  

Why Should You Get Your Warehouse Racking Inspected?   

Performing a Storage Rack Inspection Per OSHA

Warehouses are a hectic environment. With hundreds of workers running around and forklifts shifting in and out of bays, all it takes is one human error, a rogue forklift, or a faulty warehouse rack to endanger the lives of workers and cause millions of dollars in damages and delays. 

It’s also easy to lose sight of the finer details, including inspecting your racks.  

Furthermore, periodically inspecting your rack is also an OSHA requirement. While there is no standards for specific equipment like pallet racks, OSHA provides guidance through their General Duty Clause

This clause states that you need to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards by following updated ASME standards, ANSI standards, manufacturer recommendations, and the advice of industry leaders. This clause means OSHA can hand you a $5,000 fine for a rack infraction, even if that penalty isn’t in OSHA’s guidelines.   

It’s good practice to stay up to date on the Rack Manufacturers Institute’s (RMI for short) standards and best practices, as OSHA will typically cite their standards under the General Duty Clause.  

Who Will Conduct Your Pallet Rack Inspection?  

Performing a Storage Rack Inspection

The laws around who can perform a rack inspection are vague. Even though the standards say any “seasoned professional” can inspect a rack, they don’t define what makes someone a seasoned professional. Technically, someone with only three months of experience can inspect racks.  

Recently, there’s been a push by OSHA to have a third-party do your inspections.  

While you may trust and respect your in-house safety department, the third-party inspection report will provide your organization with an unbiased and accurate assessment of your warehouse pallet racking system’s condition.  

From here, you can address any issues—like unposted capacity, structural intensity, or missing components—before an OSHA inspector arrives at your facility. 

How Long Does A Warehouse Racking Inspection Take? 

According to our warehouse solutions experts, 90% of rack inspections will take at least a full day to complete. The size of your facility and the amount of damage on the racks are the two biggest factors determining how long the inspection will take. 

How Often Should Your Warehouse Racks Be Inspected?  

Warehouse Storage Racks

Whether you’re building a new facility or moving into an existing one, having a plan on when to inspect your racks will help you stay on top of OSHA inspections. But how often should you inspect them?    

When deciding the cadence of your rack inspections, think of it like an oil change for your car. The more wear and tear on your racks, the more often they will need to be inspected. 

If you’re involved in major distribution operations that require hundreds of workers, a fleet of forklifts, and hundreds of bays, a quarterly rack inspection is the best route.  

According to our safety experts, anywhere between 90-99% of rack damage comes from forklifts. Consequently, it would be smart to have quarterly—if not monthly—inspections if you’re using a lot of forklifts in your daily operations.  

On the other hand, a mom-and-pop operation with one forklift pulling a handful of pallets a day will probably be fine with an annual inspection. No matter the size of your operations, you never want to go a full calendar year without a rack inspection.  

How Often Should You Be Inspecting Your Pallet Racks?    

So, you’re not a multi-billion-dollar distribution titan, but you’re also not a one pallet a day operation. Where do you fall on the inspection spectrum?  

To determine your inspection needs, Mazzella’s inspectors will look mostly at the number of impacts on your rack and what personnel you have. Before that third-party inspector arrives at your facility, answer these questions: 

  • Are you relying on a lot of seasonal / temporary employees who may not be fully trained? 
  • Are your forklifts running well? Keep in mind that forklifts have a life expectancy of 10-15 years.  
  • Are you using any forklift attachments that, while helpful, increase the risk for safety hazards, like a forklift boom?  
  • Have your racks experienced a major accident in recent weeks or months? 
  • Do you have any deformed structural members? 

Are Your Pallet Racks Being Used in the Right Application? 

Warehouse Rack Application

Another way to find out how often your racks should be inspected is reviewing the applications they’re used in. Many people in the warehouse and storage industry still have the mindset that storage racks are a one-size-fits-all solution. This is far from the truth.  

Your third-party inspectors will look at your product application. From there, they will: 

  • See if the rack is improperly positioning loads.  
  • Review the weight of the loads and see if they are exceeding the rack’s capacity 
  • Look for other signs like excessive beam deflection.  

If it’s determined your racks don’t fit the application, you may have to replace your entire system.  

What Else Should You Know About Warehouse Racks?  

Keeping warehouse operations running smoothly and safely is no walk in the park. We also understand that keeping up with inspections can easily slip down your priority list, especially during peak seasons.  

But making that commitment to inspecting your racks, whether it’s quarterly or annually, can save your organization from paying thousands of dollars in fines and putting employees at risk. 

If you need more information or would like to schedule a consultation with one of Mazzella’s Warehouse Solutions Specialists, contact us. Also, check out Mazzella’s warehouse capabilities brochure.  

Contact a Mazzella specialist today to learn more, order products, or schedule services.

Copyright 2024. Mazzella Companies.

Disclaimer: Any advice, graphics, images, and/or information contained herein are presented for general educational and information purposes and to increase overall safety awareness. It is not intended to be legal, medical, or other expert advice or services, and should not be used in place of consultation with appropriate industry professionals. The information herein should not be considered exhaustive and the user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals.