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New Products: Rack Solid

July 1, 2006
Pallet rack systems in more states must now meet robust seismic standards.

More earthquakes happen in California than anywhere else in the U.S. Not surprisingly, the first building codes that demanded that pallet rack systems be sturdy enough to withstand earthquakes without collapsing, cracking or otherwise malfunctioning started in California. These standards are spreading nationwide as regions like northern New Jersey, South Carolina, Massachusetts, Memphis, St. Louis, Buffalo and Atlanta now require pallet rack systems built to seismic specifications.

The City of Los Angeles, for example, demands that pallet storage racks installed within the city meet rigorous standards, and proof of meeting of these standards can only be shown by attaining a City of Los Angeles Fabricator's license. Obtaining this license signifies that a manufacturer's quality control and fabrication methods meet the strict standards set forth by the city. Manufacturing supervisors are tested for their knowledge of quality control, fabrication and welding, and all welders must be certified on an ongoing basis to conform to American Welding Society standards.

In 1996, Steel King's Stevens Point, Wis., manufacturing facility achieved the status of City of Los Angeles licensed fabricator. Since then, all three of its manufacturing plants have received this status.

Recently, material handling systems integrator Granite Distributions Solutions Inc. (Dallas) obtained a contract for a California customer whose facility was located near a seismic fault line, which meant the already stiff standards were further increased. Granite Distribution Solutions used Steel King racks for this project.

"Anything we do for the west coast, in terms of racking or mezzanines, requires structural design approval by a State-registered structural engineer," says Doug Hayden, v.p. of Granite Distribution Solutions. "The approved, engineered drawings and calculation package must be submitted for permitting to the city or the county where the project is located. This project had to be designed around a Na=1.4 near-fault seismic factor— meaning the standards were increased by 40% above normal seismic requirements due to the warehouse's location."

The material Steel King uses to manufacture its roll-formed and structural pallet rack systems meets the standard Rack Manufacturer Institute's (RMI) specifications for industrial steel pallet storage racks, and it conforms to current building codes, which include seismic standards, as well as the high standards necessary to obtain the City of Los Angeles Fabricator's license. The company says its SK2000 roll-formed product line is well suited for seismic zones, due to heavy horizontal bracing and tubular column uprights.

Earlier this year, RMI collaborated with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Building Seismic Safety Council (BSSC), and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) to create a landmark study titled Seismic Considerations for Steel Storage Racks Located in Areas Accessible to the Public.

The report highlights issues for consideration in the seismic design, installation, ongoing inspection, maintenance and use of steel single-selective storage racks located in areas of retail warehouse stores and other facilities accessible to the general public. The final report, known as FEMA 460, is available online (

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Many states are adopting building codes similar to California's tough seismic standards for rack and storage systems.