Racking blitz results: maintenance #1 issue

Apr 17, 2012

Racking blitz results: maintenance #1 issueResults of a November 2011 inspection blitz of hazards involving racking and storage systems suggest many employers are falling short on ensuring equipment, materials and protective devices are maintained in good condition. More positively, many employers appear to understand the value of a health and safety policy, and are fulfilling their duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) to review their policy annually and develop and maintain an implementation program. (See the tables below for more blitz results.)

Storage racks, usually made of steel, often support heavy loads that may collapse if improperly installed or used. They’re common in warehouses, distribution centres, retail operations and manufacturing plants.

During the one-month blitz, ministry inspectors conducted 1,167 visits to 977 workplaces and issued 3,063 orders, including 118 stop work orders.

How workplaces were chosen for inspection

Inspectors checked workplaces where racking and storage systems are commonly used. The workplaces were selected based on various risk factors. Included were workplaces

  • identified as being high-priority due to possible racking and storage hazards
  • where complaints have been received
  • having a poor compliance history

The top five workplaces visited were in the following sectors:

  • food and beverage
  • retail
  • transportation
  • wholesalers
  • wood and metal fabrication

While on site, the inspectors focused on five priorities. How would your pallet and racking system measure up? (See “How to improve racking in your workplace” for sample tips.)

  • installation and selection. Have racking and storage systems been selected and installed to ensure worker safety?
  • condition, maintenance and repair of racking and storage systems.
  • use of racks. Are lift trucks being driven and products being loaded and unloaded on pallet racks in a safe manner?
  • forklift activity. Are appropriate lift trucks being used for the workplace and tasks required? Is truck capacity sufficient to carry the required loads? Are narrow forklifts being used for narrow aisles?
  • other related issues, such as aisle obstructions, lighting, and pallet condition.

Take note: inspectors' findings may affect the frequency and level of future inspections of individual workplaces. If your workplace received orders following an inspection, expect to see an inspector again -- or if your workplace experiences a serious racking incident.

November 2011 racking blitz inspection statistics

  Industrial Sector Racking Blitz Inspections
November 2011
Total Industrial Sector Inspections November 2011

Workplaces visited



Total visits



Orders (all types)



Stop work orders



Orders per visit



Stop work orders per visit



Order analysis

Type of Order Number of Orders Issued Percentage
of Total Blitz Orders

Employer duty to ensure equipment, materials and protective devices provided by the employer are maintained in good condition [OHSA* S. 25(1)(b)]



Employer duty to ensure materials are stored safely so workers are not endangered [O. Reg. 851,** S. 45(b)]



Employer duty to provide an engineer's report on load limits for structures [OHSA, S. 54(1)(m)]



Employer duty to take reasonable precautions to protect worker [OHSA, S. 25(2)(h)]



Employer duty to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect worker's health and safety [OHSA, S. 25(2)(a)]



Employer duty to ensure a lifting device is examined by a competent person to determine capacity to handle maximum rated load [O. Reg. 851, S. 51(1)(b)]



Employer duty to ensure material will not tip and fall (O. Reg. 851, S. 46)



Employer duty to annually prepare and review a health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement it [OHSA, S. 25(2)(j)]



Employer duty to post the OHSA [OHSA, S. 25(2)(i)]



Employer duty to provide any drawings, specifications, document, record or report [OHSA, S. 54(1)(c)]



Employer duty to ensure floors are kept free of obstructions (O. Reg. 851, S. 11)



* Occupational Health and Safety Act
** Industrial Establishments Regulation

How to improve racking safety in your workplace

Here are four sample steps to consider. Add to the list where possible to reflect conditions and circumstances in your workplace.

  1. Conduct a thorough inspection of your racking system to establish a benchmark, and make repairs if required.
  2. Create an inspection checklist for use during regular inspections. “In some workplaces,” says Chuck Leon, a material handling and warehouse specialist with Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS), “the racking systems may have been there longer than the employees who installed them or now use them. A checklist will help you focus on safety priorities. For example, are safety pins missing? Are safety bars in place? Are they bolted to the floor?”
  3. Provide racking safety awareness training so that supervisors, lift truck operators, maintenance staff and joint health and safety committee members know what to watch out for. “Most certification training courses don’t cover off racking in hazard identification training,” warns Leon.
  4. Give yourself enough time to inspect the racking system thoroughly. “If inspection staff have only an hour to go through the entire facility,” asks Leon, “will they see everything they need to see? In my experience, racking systems, loading docks and conveyors don’t always get checked thoroughly enough to truly protect workers and prevent damage to property. It all goes back to knowing what to look for.”

How WSPS can help

View available resources on the Health & Safety Ontario website.