Are your Building Columns in Jeopardy?

Imagine one of your employees hitting a building column with a fork truck. Or worse, they hit a column, but don’t report it, and you notice the damage after the fact.

Awareness of this damage, to industrial or warehouse building columns, is fundamental in keeping you and your employees safe.

What To Look For

Damage to building columns from fork truck or other vehicles is sometimes not reported when collisions happen—the damage often goes unnoticed or ignored. Dents, twists, piercings, and sheared-off anchors can reduce the load-carrying capacity of a column, make the column susceptible to more severe damage from later collisions, and may put a portion of the building at-risk for collapse if the column were to fail.

Even seemingly subtle damage can sometimes be structurally significant if the column has little reserve load-carrying capacity. In addition to the weight of the building structure, transient loads such as roof snow and nearby ceiling-supported overhead cranes, need to be considered when evaluating a damaged column. It’s important to account for the maximum possible weight that the column will need to support during its expected service life.

Column Protection Options

There are many options to protect your building columns from damage. If space allows, I recommend encasing the base of the column in a concrete bollard, providing a few independent bollards near the column, or installing other manufactured protective devices around the base of the column. Column protection is particularly recommended if the column is adjacent to frequently-used vehicular traffic aisles. You can also paint column bases safety yellow to serve as a visual cue for fork truck and other equipment operators. This makes them aware of the column’s presence and will help reduce the frequency of column collisions.

As a structural engineer, I am able to visually survey building columns for damage, conduct a sensitivity analysis of damaged building columns to determine if the damage is severe enough to warrant repairs, and offer necessary solutions.

Are your building columns in need of inspection? Are you looking for options to protect your building columns? Contact us today.

Nick Schneider, P.E. is a structural engineer and project manager at IIW. He has nearly 10 years of experience designing both industrial and commercial facilities. He also is highly experienced in the evaluation of existing structures to determine structural reinforcing requirements for building additions, truck dock additions, and other proposed modifications.