Not even cutting-edge technology has eliminated the need for storage racks. They’re used in industrial warehouses, retail stores and commercial facilities.

Developing safety plans for facilities that utilize storage racks can be difficult because there are no definitive OSHA standards with respect to rack safety.This article will discuss applicable OSHA general industry standards, engineering guidelines, and operational safety procedures employers should utilize to protect employees and their business.

The following is a general discussion of rack safety, but employers with specific issues or questions would be wise to consult the racking manufacturer or a reputable expert. Talking things over with the experts at Stein Service & Supply is the best way to avoid incidents and prevent injuries.

Safety Risks

First, let’s take a look at what can go wrong. According to the Rack Manufacturers Institute, these are the most common causes of pallet rack failure and potential injury:

  • Damage from forklifts
  • Overloaded racks
  • Poor installation
  • Shoddy repair jobs
  • Alterations to rack configuration without the approval of a qualified engineer
  • Mixing and matching components

When qualified racking professionals are involved in the installation/repair and are consulted on any changes in the pallet racking system, safety hazards are largely preventable.

Employer Responsibilities

The OSHA general duty clause requires that each employer furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.Employers should insure that (1) their rack systems are properly designed and engineered for their application and (2) proper work procedures, inspections, and training are in place to protect worker safety.

Pallet rack systems should be designed to adhere to the industry standard, ANSI/RMI MH16, known as “Specification for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks”. This is a comprehensive engineering standard incorporating system design, loads, component selection, material handling equipment, and installation.Employers should select a competent, reputable engineering firm and/or rack supplier to insure these standards are met.

Equally important is establishing work procedures and processes to maintain the integrity of the pallet rack systems.Forklift drivers should be certified and trained on rack load capacities and proper stacking techniques.Periodic rack inspections should be scheduled and any damage identified or reported should be repaired or replaced by certified technicians.

In addition, Employers should be aware of and in compliance with OSHA Material Handling Regulations (1910.176 and 1910.159) which state:

  • Where mechanical handling equipment is used, sufficient safe clearances shall be allowed for aisles and doorways. Aisles shall be kept clear of obstructions and shall be appropriately marked.
  • Stored items must be secured. Stored items must be stable and secured to prevent sliding or collapse.
  • There must be at least 18 inches of clearance between stored items and sprinkler heads. For ESFR sprinklers, a minimum of 36 inches is required.

The most common OSHA general duty violations are:

  • Rack columns are not anchored to the floor.
  • Load ratings are not present on the racking.
  • Racking is damaged

A Helpful Checklist

Employers or Safety Officers should be aware of and address any deficiencies in the following list. Stein Service and Supply provides these and other services to insure your company is in full compliance with existing regulations and responsibilities:


  • Pallet racks are installed exactly according to the engineer’s drawings. Drawings and calculations are easily accessible.
  • Load ratings for all rack configurations are posted at the end of each aisle. Capacity is never exceeded.
  • Racks are properly aligned and are not out of plumb.
  • Qualified experts are consulted before racks are reconfigured or modified in any way.
  • Mixing racks from different vendors requires engineering review and approval
  • Bumpers, guards and additional reinforcements are in place where needed.
  • All uprights are properly anchored
  • Aisles are clear, and ample clearance is provided for material-handling equipment.

Safety Reviews and Inspections

  • Inspections are scheduled and performed on periodic basis
  • Anchoring is sturdy and in good repair.
  • There is no structural damage. Repairs or replacements are made promptly.
  • Beam deflection is not excessive. To calculate the limit, divide the length by 180. For example, dividing 86 inches by 180 results in a 0.48-inch deflection limit.
  • Welds show no cracking and bolts are tight and secure.
  • Decking is in good shape and the decking’s maximum load is adequate.
  • Your material-handling workers are thoroughly trained. They are aware of the weight of the material they are handling and the rack capacities. They are skilled in proper stacking techniques, and they observe height restrictions.
  • Workers know not to climb on warehouse racking. For the rare cases in which climbing is necessary, they know to get approval and use proper fall protection.
  • Employees know how to report damaged racking and feel comfortable doing so.

Rely on the Pros

If you still have questions or feel overwhelmed, you’ve come to the right place. For more than 20 years, our experts at Stein Service & Supply have worked with employers to help them run safe, efficient facilities. We offer warehouse racking inspection services as well as rack assessment classes. Contact us today!