How Did This Warehouse Collapse? (& How to Avoid It)

How Did This Warehouse Collapse? (& How to Avoid It)

You may have seen this video making its rounds on the internet – every warehouse manager’s nightmare. A warehouse collapse.

But how did it happen?

Obviously, the forklift hitting the rack was the direct cause. But, it is shocking to see such a gentle bump cause a total rack collapse. We’re confident that there’s something else going on here.

When a disaster like this occurs, there is usually more than one contributing factor. Here are some of the most common causes of pallet rack system failure, whether acting alone or in combination.

Overloaded Racking Causes a Warehouse Collapse

It is clear that those aren’t empty cardboard boxes. It certainly looks like that racking contains full loads. We’d guess that the rack is in a state of overload. The rack exceeds the manufacturer’s recommended loading capacity. This seems like the largest contributing factor to the collapse.

Too much deflection is a red flag that your racking is overloaded. Of course, some deflection is common. However, too much is a recipe for disaster.

avoiding warehouse collapse

Improper Use

Proper training and equipment are integral to the safety and success of any warehouse. Using the wrong material handling equipment, or using the right equipment in an improper way, can lead to catastrophic mistakes like the one in the video above. 

Manufacturing Defect

Mistakes happen in any industry, and racking is no different. It’s always a good idea to inspect the materials yourself, just to be sure there are no issues.

In the video above, perhaps the racking was welded improperly or there was another weak point on the racking itself.

We’ve also seen a manufacturer ship the incorrect parts (ie, they intended to send 15ga beams, but shipped 16ga beams instead). A mistake like that would be almost impossible to identify without cutting the beam apart, removing the paint, and measuring with steel thickness with calipers.

Prior Damage

how to avoid a warehouse collapse

Damage to racking is something you need to be conscious of over time. These racks are built extremely sturdy. But if they are repeatedly mistreated over a decade, things can start to wear down.

It’s possible that this wasn’t the first time the racking had been hit. Some parts of the racking may have been damaged in a prior incident. The damaged rack is no longer structurally sound and must be replaced immediately.


Warehouse Inspectors

How Can I Limit The Risk of Warehouse Collapse?

Extensive Safety Training

Train your people to drive forklifts carefully and load racking carefully. Nothing can substitute for this. A forklift and an earthquake are the biggest risks to your pallet racking. You can’t control an earthquake, but you can decide to properly train your people.

Follow Warnings or Suffer a Warehouse Collapse

Do not, under any circumstances, exceed the engineer’s stated capacity. These rules are there for a reason and the consequences of ignoring them are much more catastrophic than the nuisance of following them.

Protect Your Racking

You can protect your racking from a forklift or other damage with various safety products:

        • Column guards
        • Bollards
        • Aisle guards
        • Beam safety clips
        • Drop pins


Inspect Racking Regularly

Make sure to inspect all of your equipment, including your racking, thoroughly and often. It is much better to spot an issue and deal with it immediately, possibly replacing a single part, than to ignore the issue and have it all come crashing down on you—quite literally.

If you are new to inspections, or just have questions that need answered, our expert staff is here to help.  For more information about pallet rack inspections, or to book time to speak with one of our experts, visit our inspection services page.

Clear It With The Experts

Get your racking permitted, including a full evaluation by a seismic engineer. You can send us a message about your project and speak to a racking expert for free here.

If you need help on getting a high-piled storage permit, check out our latest guide here!


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