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Posted by Stephanie on May 20, 2024

Meeting regulatory requirements is just as important as maintaining operational efficiency to effectively manage a warehouse. Compliance with fire codes and OSHA guidelines is possible if you obtain the necessary permits and study these requirements before your warehouse is up and running. 

If you intend to stack pallets and items when storing your inventory, you must apply for a high pile storage permit for your racking system. However, you must meet specific requirements before being approved for this type of permit. This guide explains how high pile storage permits work and why warehouses need them.

high pile permits

Understanding High Pile Storage

If you intend to store combustible items on your facility’s racking system above a certain height, you must obtain a high pile storage permit. Remember that “combustible” doesn’t just refer to flammable liquids and similar substances. Practically everything stored in a warehouse is combustible, which is why these facilities need a high pile storage permit. 

These permits are usually required for warehouses that meet two qualifications. Your storage area must be more than 500 square feet in size. Products must also be stored at least 12 feet high. If you meet both qualifications, you need to apply for a permit. Some jurisdictions have slightly different requirements, which is why it’s highly recommended that you read your local regulations before applying.

The purpose of these regulations is to make sure that racks don’t get in the way of fire sprinklers during a fire. These guidelines are based on the International Fire Code (IFC), specifically Section 105.6.22

Even if the items you store in your warehouse are only capable of partially burning, a permit will be required. Most items that are kept on wooden pallets are included. The main exceptions include products that are made entirely from stone, metal, and similar materials that aren’t flammable. These items can’t be stored on skids or pallets that are made from combustible materials.

Your warehouse may also need to comply with stricter regulations if you store any products that are especially combustible, such as tires, wood materials, and chemicals. Applying for this type of permit can be complicated and time-consuming. If you make a mistake, you could encounter significant delays as you wait for your personnel to alter the facility and bring it up to code

You may be able to avoid these mistakes and keep delays at bay by working with a high pile storage consultant. They can help you understand product classification and storage requirements. If you want to open your warehouse quickly and start moving items to and from the facility, it’s important to obtain your high pile permit as soon as possible.

Regulations and Requirements

When filling out your high pile storage permit application, you must include details about your building and the items that are stored inside. Some of the safety factors that fire departments consider during the approval process include the following:

  • Pallet type
  • Specs of your fire sprinkler system, which include density and flow rate
  • The building’s total square footage
  • Ceiling height
  • Flammability of your stored products

The regulations maintained by fire departments are categorized by the commodity classes of various products. As mentioned before, highly flammable products have more requirements. In comparison, the guidelines for less-flammable items aren’t as strict. There are five distinct commodity classes, which include I-IV and High Hazard. Class I-IV commodities are usually grouped together. You need to obtain a permit if you’re storing these products more than 12 feet high. The requirements between these classes don’t change much.

High Hazard commodities include flammable items like:

  • Rubber tires
  • Charcoal
  • Excess pallets
  • Plastics
  • Batteries

You must apply for a permit if these items are stored at a height of six feet or more. There are also some additional requirements for everything from flue spaces to sprinkler systems. For example, the longitudinal flue space in your racks must provide an unobstructed opening of six inches, which means that back-to-back racks need this amount of clear space between them.

As for smoke vents, you need an automatic venting system if your warehouse isn’t outfitted with sprinklers. Every exit door in your facility must be kept unlocked at all times to ensure your personnel can react swiftly in the event of a fire. If you’re required to obtain a high pile storage permit, your facility must also have an automatic sprinkler system installed.

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Permits

Permit Process

You can apply for a high pile storage permit with your local fire marshal or building department. Companies usually apply for these permits when the warehouse is being built, which means that they should be part of the initial building plans. When filling out your application, make sure you include details about your storage system. Along with a floor plan, you must also submit a site plan. Make sure that the application includes descriptions of all your stored products. The building department will use these descriptions to classify your goods.

A floor plan displays the location and dimensions of your storage area. It also shows the fire marshal where the racks are positioned and how to locate the doors. As for a site plan, it’s a sheet that shows your entire building, which extends to the fire hydrants, automatic sprinkler systems, exits, and fire lanes. You may need to submit two or three copies of your site and floor plans alongside the application

Once your permit has been approved, you’ll still need to renew it twice each year. If you make any alterations to how your storage system is arranged, you must renew the permit. Keep in mind that individual jurisdictions can have shorter or lengthier renewal timelines. 

Before you can be approved for a high pile permit, hire a professional inspector to analyze your facility and make sure your layout adheres to all fire code regulations. The inspector will determine if your sprinkler system has been properly installed. They’ll also evaluate your materials to identify which class they’re in.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

If you don’t comply with high pile storage requirements, you could face serious consequences, which include everything from compliance citations to total business shutdown. Your local fire department will conduct regular inspections of your warehouse. If they discover that you’re storing your goods without the necessary permit, you’ll automatically receive a citation, which could come with fines. 

If an employee or customer is injured because you aren’t complying with these regulations, you could be held liable, which would open you up to lawsuits and other legal actions. While the fire department will likely allow you to obtain the necessary permit after giving you a citation, they may shut your warehouse down altogether. 

If your fire sprinklers are working and your facility is up to code, all that’s needed to comply with fire code regulations is the right permit. Obtaining this permit should prevent your property from being damaged and keep your personnel safe.

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Compliance Assistance

If your building doesn’t meet the requirements, your permit application could be denied, which would likely result in a lengthy delay while you make the necessary changes. For example, the fire marshal might require a more advanced sprinkler system, which takes time to install. 

To avoid these delays and ensure compliance, seek help from warehouse management experts. With experienced professionals by your side, you can guarantee compliance before submitting your application. These experts can also speed up permit processing. By outsourcing permit-related tasks to reputable professionals, you can avoid wasting time and money on a process you’re not familiar with.

Once you obtain a high pile permit, you’ll have everything you need to keep your warehouse running smoothly. This type of permit will validate your facility and make sure that your personnel are working in safe conditions. Before hiring a permit consultant, consider your options. Hire a professional who has ample experience with high pile permits and knows how to navigate the application process.

Conclusion

High pile storage permits are required for most warehouses. If you intend to store items at least 12 feet high, you’ll likely need a permit. Fire departments maintain these guidelines to make sure sprinkler systems are able to efficiently douse fires upon detection. If the cargo is piled too high or your sprinkler system doesn’t accommodate the size of your warehouse, a fire could spread uncontrollably.

It’s highly recommended that all warehouse operators prioritize compliance with high pile storage regulations to avoid legal consequences and ensure safety. If your warehouse doesn’t follow these regulations, you could receive a citation. The warehouse could also be shut down permanently. Before applying for one of these permits, reach out to reputable experts for guidance.

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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.