Boots UK develops innovative in house solution to protect colleagues from pallet racking push through
The Boots UK Burton warehouse is the home of the dot com and seasonal operations. Off peak, c. 700 colleagues work in the facility, rising to 3,000 in peak times. The warehouse is equipped with pallet storage racking c. 50ft in height.
The key safety risk in the Burton warehouse is the risk of boxes or pallets being unintentionally pushed through the racking by a fork lift truck driver, into the opposite aisle where colleagues are working on foot. The current racking installation does not have any hard, physical means to control this risk.
The racking manufacturer and installer, SSI Schaefer, previously advised Boots UK that there is a significant risk of structural racking damage if a lateral force of approximately 100kg is applied to any physical device (including netting and fixed back stops).
All solutions commercially available create this further risk by adding a lateral force to the racking in its weakest orientation.
In a response to this industry wide issue, Boots UK created the pallet push through detection system; a bespoke in house solution that fills the current gap in the market.
This system sounds a 130dB alarm when an unsafe condition is detected, enabling the FLT driver to stop their manoeuvre, preventing an actual incident from materialising. Personnel on foot are also immediately aware of the nearby risk and move from the hazardous area.
The pallet push through detection alarm utilises a polypropylene line tensioned to predefined weight of 4kg, keeping the line taught. On being subjected to an axial force (a pallet or stock travelling through the flue gap), the alarm activates. The most important feature is that the line then detaches from its lower mounting by way of a break link all tension is dropped in the line. This prevents any axial load from being applied to the racking and therefore adds no new or additional risk. The alarm will continue to sound until the device is reset under controlled conditions.
The pallet push through detection alarm is a key control in preventing a pallet from being pushed through the racking into the adjacent aisle where colleagues on foot are working.
The solution is supported by a further innovative solution – a warning light also designed in house. Any move at higher risk levels requires the FLT driver to retract the warning light from their truck, and push it under the racking into the adjacent aisle. This alerts colleagues that a move at higher risk levels is in place and to be “alert and prepared” to evacuate the area if the pallet push through detection device activates.
As a result of this new system there has been a 25% reduction in pallet incidents year on year. Pallet incidents are typically defined as boxes falling off pallets, pallets falling into the racking, pallets being pushed through into the opposite aisle.
The alarm has been activated 55 times during peak periods between October- December, preventing 41 unsafe conditions. The FLT driver has been able to abort his move, mitigating an incident from materialising.
Most impressive was the notable reducing trend of alarm activations as the season progressed, due to improved FLT driving standards as the result of drivers being more aware of the alarm system. This is in stark contrast to traditional passive ‘back stop’ type solutions that are known to worsen driving standards as drivers tend to rely on the presence of such devices to stop the pallet or stock physically.