Manassas (USA) Fatal Rack Collapse

Manassas (USA) Fatal Rack Collapse

Watch this video report first (it’s worth suffering the preceding advert).  If this concerns you, please read on..

http://www.fox5dc.com/news/local-news/114378643-story

At the time of writing this, we do not know the cause of the racking collapse which has resulted in loss of life.  You can be sure that we will follow the investigative reports to come and we will report on the facts as they come to light.

If an incident like this, causing a death, was to happen here in Australia, I imagine various investigations would follow focusing on ALL contributing factors and culpabilities.  And this would happen for all the right reasons, least of which would be blame – but blame would be sought and applied.  The most important focus would be to ensure recurrence of such a devastating event was not just reduced, but confidently eliminated.

Here are some steps such an investigation and following recurrence prevention actions might employ..

Determine the immediate physical cause of the collapse, which is very likely to include more than one contributor – so let’s explore some possibilities:

  1. A significant seismic event occurred;
  2. A collision occurred between a forklift truck or other vehicle type with the rack causing a chain reaction event;
  3. The rack was loaded beyond its designed load capacity in one or more locations and simply collapsed under the strain;
  4. The rack was under-designed to the specified load requirements and simply collapsed under the strain;
  5. The rack was installed outside of the installed design specification which weakened the rack’s integrity and load capacity;
  6. The rack which was designed and installed in full accord with the governing codes and the conforming manufacturer’s specifications, but was later altered by the owner or owner’s employees without first obtaining the conforming rack manufacturer’s endorsements, thus weakening the rack’s integrity and load capacity;
  7. The rack condition was generally poor with one or more critical components damaged and left unattended;
  8. The load media was not in accord or fitting to the rack’s design;
  9. One, more or all of the above.

What, in the presence of any one or more of the above physical findings, could have caused such a general and catastrophic and tragic event?

  1. While a significant seismic event can cause a devastating rack collapse, a minor event not effecting other structures should not cause a general rack collapse;
  2. A collision between a forklift truck or other vehicle type with the rack is very likely to cause damage. But in the absence of all other possible contributors, damage to the rack should have remained local to the impact zone without causing a general collapse event;
  3. In the absence of all other possible contributors, localised overloading of a rack beyond its design criterion could cause a rack collapse in that area local only to the “overloaded” condition. An investigation would quickly determine if the rack was generally overloaded, which could cause a general collapse;
  4. An under designed rack is very likely to cause a general collapse. An investigation would  quickly determine if a rack was under designed to the governing codes;
  5. A rack installed outside or not in accord to the governing codes could cause a general collapse. An investigation would  quickly determine if a rack was not installed to the governing codes;
  6. Altering a designed rack’s structure will alter the integrity of the rack and may reduce its load capacity to a point where that rack is unsafe. An investigation would  quickly determine if a rack was not installed to the governing codes and may determine if the rack was improperly altered;
  7. Local and occasion damage can cause local collapse events to occur. Where all other conditions are favourable to an integral rack design and installation, a general collapse event is not likely.  However, where multiple areas of damage and under-attended repairs exist, the possible occurrence of a general collapse will increase;
  8. Dependant on the extent of misuse or misloading of a rack, the possible occurrence of a general collapse can be increased;
  9. A combination of adverse conditions is more likely to be the cause of a general rack collapse, rather than one.

What recurrence prevention action could be taken by the authorities following the investigative process?

  1. Where not already in existence, a seismic design message may be introduced to prevent a general collapse event – already in place with conforming rack manufacturers and suppliers to seismic locations;
  2. In the absence of all other contributors…
    • A change will be made to the governing rack design codes – very unlikely as the code already prevents this type of incident;
    • The vehicle driver will be held to blame and will be reprimanded or sacked – very unlikely as the general rack structure should be able to sustain a local impact if all other design, installation and maintenance disciplines are in check.
  3.  through   09.
    The actions and/or non-actions of the business director/proprietor will be investigated which may be followed by legal or disciplinary action. The Australian rack designer/supplier/installer may also be joined in any legal or disciplinary actions

Just a simple message in conclusion – We all reap what we sow, so be ethical and accept you will be responsible for the outcomes.  Be sure to look for our follow up on the outcomes of the devastating Manassas rack collapse.

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