Portable framing systems for loaded pallets

This guidance explains the risks of using portable framing systems for loaded pallets. It may help employers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers eliminate or reduce those risks.

The problem

Portable storage framing systems create temporary racked storage for products that crush or are hard to handle. There are different designs for this type of racking. Usually they include frames that stack on top of each other. The system generally allows the stacking of multiple frames.

Portable framing systems are available from suppliers. It is also common for people to design and make their own frames. Pallets of product often weigh between 200kg and 1500kg, which is a significant vertical load on the portable frame. Portable framing systems should be built to withstand the vertical load. If a frame is custom-made it is unlikely the fabricator has done structural engineering calculations for the frame. Without these calculations the frame may not tolerate:

  • the weight of loaded pallets
  • vertical and horizontal forces applied by forklifts during stacking
  • potential horizontal force caused by an object such as a forklift striking the portable frame

Hazards

Portable framing systems create hazards when they:

  • are repeatedly used without regular maintenance or inspection
  • are poorly maintained
  • are fabricated using material or section sizes that do not provide sufficient structural strength for the intended stacking height and load
  • are stacked too high, causing framing to become unstable and begin to lean
  • do not incorporate a pinning or coupling system between frames to lock them into position and prevent out-of-alignment stacking
  • incorporate the pallet as part of the load-bearing frame

Risks

Risks from portable framing systems include serious injury or death due to:

  • structural collapse of the frame
  • stress on the pallet base causing collapse
  • load instability causing the portable framing system to topple

Solutions

The following information may help employers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers control the hazards and risks associated with portable framing systems.

Employers

Employers can control risks from portable framing systems by:

  • using portable framing systems designed and manufactured by professionals
  • obtaining from the manufacturer any conditions necessary to ensure the safe use and maintenance of the portable framing system. This includes safe working load and configuration limits
  • displaying information about safe working load and configuration limits in one or more prominent locations
  • developing and using a system of work that ensures loads stored using the portable framing system do not exceed the system's safe working load
  • developing and using a system of work that ensures the height of stacks does not exceed the safe working configurations

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers can control risks from portable framing systems by:

  • designing the portable framing system so pallets do not form an integral load- bearing part of the structure
  • designing the system in line with the principles of Australian Standard AS 4084-2012 – Steel storage racking
  • designing the system so it will vertically couple together to prevent misalignment
  • determining safe working load and configuration limits for the portable framing system. The limits have to ensure the framing system can withstand structural failure or stack instability through forces applied during pallet storage or retrieval
  • arranging for a certified engineer or other competent person to carry out the necessary testing and design computations

Legal duties

Employers

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act), an employer must, so far as reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

This obligation requires employers to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, employers must reduce those risks, so far as reasonably practicable.

Employers also have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).

Under the OHS Regulations, employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, identify all hazards associated with plant such as portable framing systems. Employers must, so far as reasonably practicable, eliminate any risk associated with plant. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate a risk associated with plant, employers must reduce the risk so far as reasonably practicable. More information is available in the OHS Regulations, Part 3.5 – Plant, and in WorkSafe's guidance, Plant and your legal duties and the Plant compliance code.

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers of plant such as portable framing systems also have responsibilities under the OHS Act.

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, plant is safe and without risks to health and safety if used for a purpose for which it was designed, manufactured and supplied.

Designers, manufacturers and suppliers of plant also have obligations under the OHS Regulations. Part 3.5 of the OHS Regulations contains provisions that require duty holders, including designers, manufacturers and suppliers of plant, to fulfil specific legal obligations, including identifying and controlling risks associated with plant.

People who install, erect or commission plant

A person who installs, erects or commissions plant to be used at a workplace also has responsibilities under the OHS Act. The person must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that nothing about the way in which the plant is installed, erected or commissioned makes its use unsafe or a risk to health.

For detailed information about legal duties relating to plant, see the OHS Act, OHS Regulations, WorkSafe's guidance Plant and your legal duties and the Plant compliance code.

Consultation

Employers must identify the risks and provide risk control measures in consultation with employees and any health and safety representatives (HSRs). Consultation should include discussions about how employees will work with portable framing systems, making sure that risk control measures do not create new hazards. WorkSafe has guidance on consultation, including consultation with HSRs.

Further information

  • Australian Standard - AS 4084-2012 – Steel storage racking.