Columns and Racks and Corners…Oh My!

MJ Thomas, Contributor

Industrial and warehouse environments are a danger zone for structural columns, rack systems and building corners. Every day, they’re subject to subject to damage from forklift and vehicle hits that, over time, can result in structural damage and significant expense for repair or replacement.

The good news is that there are products available which are specifically designed to protect columns, rack systems and building corners from damage—no matter their size, shape or situation. These products protect these structures and make any warehouse a safer place.

Guard the Columns

Guarding Image
The columns in a building are the backbone of its structural integrity. One collision with a forklift can be dangerous and expensive to fix. Column protectors minimize the force of tow motor damage to columns, surrounding supports, vehicles and operators. The Column Sentry® FIT is a solution that adapts to fit multi-sized columns. (Photo courtesy Sentry Protection Products)

Columns hold up things that we don’t want to fall. In many cases they support a building’s weight and maintain its structural integrity. And they take a beating. Located throughout the building, often in inconvenient places, these columns are prime targets for damage from forklifts, tow motors and trucks, especially in high traffic areas.

No matter how much attention is paid to preventing collisions; no matter how much worker training and certification is provided—accidents happen. Not only can columns get damaged, there is potential for damage to equipment and injury to people. Columns need protection.

Column protectors are guards that fit on posts, beams, pipes, columns or any vertical surface. They serve as a buffer between the surface and possible collisions, absorbing the impact.

One of the first methods used to protect structural columns from collision impact was to pour concrete around the base of the columns. That protected the columns from collision damage, but it did nothing to protect the forklifts or drivers that hit the concrete.

Constant hits to the concrete tend to pull it apart, cause cracks and weaken it. Eventually, the damages lead to costly repairs or material replacement. The key is to make sure the lower level structural elements of the column are protected from damage. One of the ways to do this is with a “wrap” that features thick foam padding covered with a semi-flexible, crack-resistant, EVA plastic. The wrap form-fits the column and shields it against collision damage.

Impact-absorbing molded products are best matched for warehouse and plant environments and are used as column protectors, rack protectors and building corner protectors. These column protectors are molded of polyethylene plastic and are designed to absorb the energy of the impact; maintain its shape; and keep the forklift from making direct contact with the column.

Unlike steel or concrete protectors, impact-absorbing molded protectors attach directly to the structure they are protecting and, in most cases, are easily removable when necessary. Depending on the manufacturer, column protectors vary in weight, wall thickness, materials, shape design, available sizes and application.

Selecting the right column protector to match the specific application is extremely important. Some column protectors are better suited for protecting from heavy impact, while others are better suited for covering columns for visibility and lesser impact.

Rack Protection

What about racking systems? Racks are continually subjected to abuse and damage, mostly caused by forklift impact. Damage to the racks compromises the integrity of the structure and can shift the alignment of stored materials. This can cause them to fall—leading to additional damage, breakage and costs. The compromising effect of dings, dents and buckles accumulates until the structure can become unstable enough to collapse.

Like column protectors, protection for rack uprights is available in a wide range of materials, sizes, heights and installations to fit rack uprights anywhere from 3 to 4-¾ ins. Some rack protectors are made of steel; some reinforced rubber; and some with energy-absorbing, polyethylene plastic.

While steel protectors serve as a barrier to hold the forklift away from the rack and spread the impact from the collision, the energy-absorbing rack protectors are designed to absorb the energy of the impact, rather than prevent it. Steel protectors require mechanical attachment to the rack; energy-absorbing protectors attach to the rack with straps, or they snap on.

Corners and Columns

Columns and rack systems aren’t the only things that take a beating in industrial high traffic areas. Building corners—interior and exterior—take some pretty good hits, too. In fact, vehicle impact is a constant problem for wall corners, especially in heavy traffic zones like the loading dock area.

It’s estimated that 25% of all industrial accidents occur at the loading dock area—and that doesn’t include near misses. The loading dock area often has poorly planned approaches, small doorways, excessive slopes, bumper projections and docks that are too low. In heavy traffic, vehicles often cut corners, resulting in collision damage to the building and the vehicles.

Protection is available for these vulnerable building corners. Like column protectors and rack protectors, corner protectors are manufactured with steel, rubber or flexible plastic and can be easily installed with a variety of methods including bolts, adhesive or straps.

By its very nature, the warehouse presents a number of potential safety hazards and the need for impact protection products is clear. Prevention and protection should be a vital component of a comprehensive safety program that considers every option possible to prevent accidents and injuries to people, equipment and facilities.

About the Company

Sentry Protection Products is a leading provider of innovative, impact resistant products for industrial applications. Manufactured in the U.S. and Europe and sold worldwide, the award-winning, patented product line includes Column Sentry® and Column Sentry® FIT column protectors; Collision Sentry® Corner Pro collision warning system; Rack Sentry® and Rack Sentry® CONTOUR rack protectors; Concrete Wrap™ column protector; and Corner Sentry building corner protector. Sentry is headquartered in the U.S. Additional information is available at info@sentrypro.com or www.sentrypro.com.

About the Author

MJ Thomas is Manager of Marketing and Public Relations for Sentry Protection Products, with responsibility for all facets of the company’s marketing communications program. She is a veteran communicator with core competencies in communications strategy, brand positioning, content creation, integrated marketing initiatives and public speaking. Her experience covers work in the manufacturing, automotive, motorsports, healthcare and education industries. Thomas is entering her eighth year with Sentry Protection Products.