Storage rack safety: Capacity, anchoring, and stacking

Date Posted: 11/20/2023
Storage racks in a warehouse

Some of the most common storage rack questions our experts receive ask about OSHA’s requirements for capacity marking, anchoring, and stacking height. While the regulations don’t address those issues, OSHA does use the General Duty Clause to cite hazards involving anchoring, lack of load ratings, and other rack issues.

Storage racks can pose hazards if not correctly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained. Employers using steel racks should obtain and review ANSI/MH 16.1, Design, Testing, And Utilization Of Industrial Steel Storage Racks. This industry standard addresses anchoring, load ratings, load configuration, inspection, and maintenance, among other things. OSHA references this industry standard during inspections.

Capacity markings

Although the regulations don’t specifically require listing the capacity rating on storage racks, OSHA has used the General Duty Clause to cite for this, particularly if a rack collapsed from overloading. Even without a collapse, racks that sag or show other evidence of overloading could be accidents waiting to happen.

To justify a General Duty Clause citation, OSHA may refer to the rack manufacturer’s recommendations or to ANSI/MH 16.1. These sources allow OSHA to show that a recognized hazard might be avoided with a load rating sign.

Anchoring and security

Rack base plates include holes for anchor bolts to secure it to the floor. Use only bolts designed for this anchorage. While OSHA’s regulations don’t cover this either, the manufacturer (and the ANSI standard) recommend securing the rack to the floor. Those sources give OSHA the foundation for a General Duty Clause citation, since failure to anchor the racks would create a recognized hazard.

Some employers also want to anchor racks to walls, roof structures, or other building components. However, those areas are not normally intended to handle the extra stress. In addition, damage to the wall or other structure could transfer to the rack, creating unintended consequences.

Stacking and height

As with capacity labeling and anchoring, OSHA doesn’t specifically regulate stacking height. However, the regulation at 1910.176(b) says that storage of material must not create a hazard. Bags, containers, or other materials stored in tiers must be stacked, blocked, interlocked, and limited in height so that they are stable and secure against sliding or collapse.

Avoid using damaged pallets, and when placing the pallet, make sure it fits into the rack’s support members. Unless the rack is designed for it, prohibit double-stacking of pallets.

Another limiting factor on height is the clearance for overheat sprinklers. Paragraph 1910.159(c)(10) requires a minimum vertical clearance of at least 18 inches from stacked materials. This clearance ensures that stored items don’t block the sprinkler’s discharge pattern.

Inspections for damage

Where forklifts or similar trucks are used, racks can easily get damaged. The forklift’s tines or the pallet itself can bend a rack and even knock it over. Also, a forklift operator may strike the rack or support. If operators cause damage, they should report it immediately, but they don’t always do so. Adding guards around the racking support can help minimize damage from impacts.

Even with guards, employers should conduct periodic inspections for damage. Damaged rack sections may have to be removed from use until evaluated and repaired or replaced. Repairs should use only manufacturer-approved components and should be performed by a qualified person. Do not allow “good enough” repairs using improvised materials.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety Topic Webcasts

In nearly every workplace, some employees manually handle boxes, bags, or other materials. Larger loads require using forklifts, conveyors, or even slings and cranes. To learn how to avoid common hazards, watch our archived webcast “OSHA Material Handling and Hazardous Materials” from Thursday, November 30, 2023. This presentation covered storage and handling, including proper storage of flammable liquids and compressed gasses.

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