Warehouse Safety Netting
The next time you’re at Home Depot or Lowes or Menards, look up to the top of the shelves and you’ll probably see something that most every warehouse should consider: pallet rack safety netting. You can guess why these companies would put safety netting on their top racks. With thousands of people walking through the stores on a given day, they don’t want to take the change of someone being injured by a falling pallet full of plungers!
In most cases, pallets are going to be perfectly safe sitting on your industrial shelving. For the bulk of the inventory you have on your pallet racks, their even weight and plastic wrapping will keep them in place for one simple reason: inertia. If they’re sitting there not moving, they’re going to simply stay in place. So if they’re secure, why do you even need pallet safety netting on your industrial shelving units? Well…
Sometimes Pallets Move!
While pallets and their inventory on them might seem static, there are actually a few reasons why they might come tumbling down without much warning.
Without a doubt, forklifts are the number-one reason that pallet rack shelving gets damaged and causes inventory to drop. Maybe a forklift operator is moving too quickly, or perhaps they’re simply inexperienced operating the machinery. They might hit the inventory directly, or they might hit another pallet which hits another and causes it to topple. Either way you end up with inventory on the warehouse floor and the danger of possibly hitting someone. Storage rack netting can help prevent and lessen the damage done.
The problem with buildings is that they never really stop settling. While the ground might be well-compacted by the earthmovers before the concrete foundation is poured, it’s impossible for even such heavy machinery to get all of the air out of the soil. Even if they could, some types of soil are always going to shift more than others. Both of these can cause your shelving units to shift.
Of course, it’s not just the immediate settling that you have to worry about. Over the years the soil can become more compact, or it can be washed away from improperly-mitigated water. Over time every warehouse suffers some degree of settling, from tiny cracks in the floor to slabs becoming dangerously uneven. Even tiny changes in the level of a floor can cause pallets to shift over time, moving them horizontally imperceptibly at first. Having nets can help to prevent them from falling, and if they do fall then the damage can be contained.
When most people think of earthquakes, they immediately think of California. It’s true that California has a lot of highly-publicised earthquakes, even though Alaska and Oklahoma have more. But the fact is that every state has earthquakes to some degree, even if humans can’t feel them. So while safety netting on your industrial pallet racks might not necessarily be there to protect from frequent earthquakes you can feel, they can protect items from shifting gradually over time due to tiny movements of the earth in a particular geographical area.
Time and Gravity
The three previous reasons we just noted — forklift damage, settling, and earthquakes — might not show any problems right away. Sure, sometimes an earthquake can shake the pallets right off the industrial shelving, or the forklift operator might crash and cause that inventory to fall right off the top shelf. But other times the problem isn’t so obvious right away.
Sometimes it’s time and gravity that combine to bring pallets raining down. Gravity is constantly pulling downward, causing some types of inventory to deform. If it was leaning in the first place, it might eventually shift its weight and cause it to topple. If you have anything made of plastic or cardboard in your inventory, don’t be surprised if it shifts when left on the shelves for an extended period.
Why Invest In Safety Netting?
Okay, now that we’ve taken a look at the causes of falling inventory, you’re probably wondering if it’s really necessary. What’s really being protected, anyway? Let’s find out.
Protect Your Employees
Your primary concern should, of course, be your employees. While it might be expensive to replace inventory or equipment, the people who work in a warehouse have the right to be working in a safe environment. So whether it’s your best friend in the warehouse or someone you barely know, it’s important to keep them as safe as possible. Falling inventory isn’t something that anyone should have to deal with.
The good thing is, protecting people is actually a good financial decision as well. Here’s how a single fallen pallet can hurt your bottom line.
- Lost Time – When you have to stop to address an injured employee, you’re losing time that could cause you to miss a shipment.
- Lost Experience – If you have an injured employee, you’re losing their level of experience. Hiring someone new or getting a temp will never deliver the efficiency of a trained employee.
- Overtime – If you don’t hire someone to replace the injured worker, you’re going to have to make up the difference somehow. That could lead to overtime for other workers.
- Low Employee Morale – Employees who see a co-worker get injured can be disheartened, and they might start to question how much your company cares about their safety.
- Higher Insurance Premiums – The more injuries your business experiences, the higher insurance premiums are going to be for the company and for each individual employee.
- Bad Press – While the news of an injured employee might not make the news in a big city, the story can be very different if your warehouse is in a small town. When the news gets around that somebody that everyone knows was injured, it can mean bad press for a business.
- OSHA Will Visit – There’s a good chance that you’ll get a visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as they try to discover what happened. There could be big fines ahead. And while it might end up having been the employee’s fault, you don’t want to draw OSHA’s attention if it’s not necessary.
- You Could Be Sued – No surprise here. Any injury in the workplace can lead to a lawsuit, so you want to minimize the possibility as much as possible.
Protect Your Inventory
While your primary concern should be to your employees, there’s always the inventory itself sitting on the storage racking that you need to think about. Here are some custom variances you might consider in your warehouse.
Protect That One Column
Unless your entire inventory is a single item, there are always going to be pallets in the rack system that are worth more than others. You may not care much about a column of pallets that contain $500 worth of company fliers — most of which would survive the fall anyway — but if you tend to have a supply of delicate electronics you might want to think of protecting them with pallet rack shelving safety netting.
On the other hand, maybe it’s not about the monetary value of what’s on the pallets; perhaps it’s weight. If you have pallets of pillows, then you might not need to worry about keeping them in place as much as if you have spools of copper wire. You can always choose to keep the netting over the heaviest items.
Protect One Batch of Shelves
Sometimes there’s a particular section of storage racking that might be more vulnerable than others. The most common example would be shelving that’s out in the middle of the warehouse as opposed to up against a wall. Shelving like this tends to be much more vulnerable, because it a) it can be pushed from either side, and b) if it starts to slide, there’s at least a 50% chance that there’s a wall to stop it from going further! Units out in the open don’t have that luxury, so make sure to put some netting on both sides.
Protect All Of Your Shelving Racks
Okay, so your warehouse is nowhere near Alaska or California, and you’re far enough away from Oklahoma that you’re not afraid of their earthquakes shifting your shelving units. Well then, you must be forgetting about the New Madrid Fault in Missouri, one of the largest in the country. This fault caused a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812 that leveled the town of New Madrid and caused upshifts in the Mississippi River, creating waterfalls and waves that made the river flow backwards in some areas. The New Madrid’s “specialty” as a fault is that the effects can be felt over such a large area. While the states that are in the most danger are Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, shakes from New Madrid quakes can be felt in dozens of states. In 1968 there was a much smaller 5.4 quake that caused Boston buildings to sway.
You might not be too concerned about a New Madrid earthquake, but considering that the original quakes leveled buildings 160 miles away in St. Louis, you might want to think again and consider keeping your inventory in place if you’re within a few hundred miles of the fault.
Prevent and Reduce Damage
Another good reason to invest in safety netting is that it can reduce damage done to everything in your warehouse. Here’s how:
- Protect The Shelving Racks – If something falls from the top shelf, it could damage the shelving rack on the way down. Instead of having your expensive industrial shelving damaged, why not simply prevent it from falling in the first place?
- Protect the Floor – Warehouse floors don’t have to look great, but you also don’t want huge gashes out of them that have to be repaired before it’s safe to drive near them. Save money and time simply by making sure that a huge pallet doesn’t come falling down.
- Protect the Forklift – Forklifts are pretty robust, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have their weak points. If a forklift clips a rack and brings a pallet down, it’s probably going to suffer some damage that requires professional repair.
How’s Safety Netting Installed?
Convinced that it might be time to get at least some of your industrial pallet units covered in safety netting? You’re not alone, because it’s becoming more and more popular in warehouse settings. Here’s how it works:
- A typical mounting system attaches to ceiling joists at the top, I-beams in the middle, and to the floor at the bottom.
- There are dozens of types of industrial pallet shelving units, so netting can be custom-made for each.
- We’ll install! As easy as the netting is to work around once it’s installed, it requires precise installation. We’ll take care of installing it in front of your pallet racks.
Protect Vertically and Horizontally
Pallet rack safety netting actually protects in two ways. First of all, it’s there to protect people on the ground from anything that falls from a rack. As it falls, it’s contained behind the netting and helps to prevent the item from doing more damage as it breaks apart when it hits the floor. That’s the vertical part.
Its other goal is to prevent the pallets from coming down in the first place. The netting usually hangs flat against the outside of the storage racking units. If a pallet is causing it to stick out, the netting can keep it in place and also give a visual cue that something isn’t right; the netting acts as a warning while keeping the pallet in place.
Doesn’t It Slow Things Down?
Honestly, very little. Yes, it might take a few extra minutes to move the netting away from a particular location, but it’s worth it considering the safety it provides. Also, you don’t have to cover every inch of your pallet racks with netting, just the racks that have the pallets that are most vulnerable. Netting can also be pushed to the side if you switch inventory in a particular section and no longer need the netting in place.
It’s Time To Make Your Warehouse Safer!
We’d love to talk with you about the options we can offer to make your warehouse safer and more productive. If you have any questions about our warehouse safety netting, we’d love to talk to you about it. Contact Dak today!