Rapid Racking advises contingency planning for severe weather

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Severe weather conditions such as wind, snow, ice, and flooding, can have a devastating effect on businesses, and preparing for the consequences of these conditions is particularly important around this time of year.

A contingency plan should be put in place to manage the risks of unpredictable weather and to recover from unexpected disasters. Simon Lock, Designer at Rapid Racking, looks at measures we can take to help reduce damage to racking in order to prevent stock damage and ensure employee safety.

For many companies across the country it may seem that the start of the British winter brings an element of chaos. From the catastrophic flooding in parts of North West England over the last few weeks to the snow in Scotland and the mild Winter weather that has settled across the South coast for the time of year - British weather is nothing if not surprising. While the weather may not be able to decide what to do, it's important that businesses are prepared, particularly in terms of racking and storage solutions.

While some advice may be self-explanatory, it pays to be prepared for both storing goods and transporting heavy loads around a site. For example, warehouses without racking and bulk storage on a ground level should consider installing racking to avoid expensive spoilage. Whereas warehouses with racking already in place, should consider moving their ground level pallets and stock to upper levels or adding a bottom beam level so that stock is not stored directly on the ground.

Bear in mind however that before you move any heavy goods higher up the racking, that the racking load capacity is suitable for the weight of the item or pallet, and that it is distributed proportionately to ensure the integrity of the racking is maintained. An uneven weight distribution can negatively affect the stability of the racking and the products stored within it, so it's important to get it right.

While stock may be the first thing that springs to mind, flood waters have the potential to damage the racking itself, consequently risking collapse. Damage may not always be obvious, so in order to reduce the risk of this, it is wise to ensure floor fixings are secure and inspections are carried out regularly to check the strength and stability of the racking, particularly before the flood hits and immediately after the water subsides.

As ever, each and every site requires a responsible person to carry out weekly and monthly safety checks on racking and this should be no different in severe weather conditions. This is particularly important where material handling equipment such as forklifts are in operation due to the potential for damage. SEMA advises that racking posts, with as little as 3mm deflection on a 1m section should be replaced immediately if any damage is recorded. In poor weather, where material handling equipment is used, other simple measures such as gritting the perimeters can help to mitigate against any potential problems.

For outdoor storage there are some further considerations. Where racking is open to the elements, the fully loaded pallets result in a big "sail area" which poses a health and safety risk for anyone working in the vicinity. Businesses should also specify a hot dip galvanised finish to reduce the chance of rust and corrosion on the racking structure.

Another consideration could be to opt for cantilever racking with canopies for outdoor storage or even clad the racking entirely, to create a building structure. Needless to say there are many measures that people can take to ensure the safety and integrity of site operations whatever the weather throws at us - it's important that businesses prepare.

During the specification process, due diligence should be paid to the surrounding environment and the climate within which the business is operating. Some conclusions can easily be drawn from this simple analysis in terms of expectation for snow and wind – the latter in fact forms part of a British Standard that provides wind speeds for different parts of the UK and can therefore be used to calculate wind load.

The advice, as ever, for anyone considering a new installation, retrofit or even seeking advice is to ask the experts. We are happy to help.

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