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Posted by Stephanie on April 8, 2024

Whether you own or manage a warehouse, you must comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for warehouse racking. OSHA sets and enforces standards in the workplace to ensure employees remain safe and healthy while performing their duties. 

When considering OSHA standards for warehouse racking, their goal is to limit the improper placement of shelving. You may be liable for any accident if your shelves or racks aren’t installed correctly. There are significant consequences of not complying with OSHA standards, which include sizable fines. 

OSHA inspectors have the training and skills to look for and identify violations in a warehouse. You’ll first receive a citation if you don’t comply with OSHA standards. If the violation is severe, additional penalties and fines may be assessed. When you receive a citation, it will include a detailed explanation of the racking issue you must fix. Fines differ depending on the severity of your violation. OSHA violations are placed in the following categories:

  • Trivial
  • Willful
  • Serious
  • Other-than-serious
  • Failure to abate
  • Repeated

Fines extend from $5,000-$161,000. If a worker dies because of the violation, imprisonment is possible. In this guide, you’ll learn to avoid penalties and ensure your warehouse is OSHA-compliant. 

Pallet Racking Installation

OSHA Requirements for Warehouse Racking

To understand “What are OSHA requirements for warehouse racking?” the purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to keep workers and workplaces safe. However, their guidelines are often complex and challenging to understand. Nearly every aspect of a warehouse needs to be designed and installed with these guidelines in mind. As touched upon previously, fines for violations can be very high. While a single breach is usually $16,000 or less, the fine for a repeated violation can be as high as $161,000. 

Warehouse injuries occur at higher rates than the national average for other industries, which is why OSHA guidelines are strict. When looking specifically at warehouse racking, there are three basic requirements that you’ll need to adhere to if you want to avoid fines and other penalties. 

1910.176(a)

This guideline provides clearance requirements for aisles, doorways, passageways, and loading docks. When using mechanical handling equipment, you must allow for sufficient safe clearances wherever turns need to be made. Passageways and aisles must be kept clear and in good condition. Ensure no obstructions in these locations could result in a hazard. Any permanent passageways and aisles in your warehouse need to be marked appropriately. 

1910.176(b)

This guideline handles the proper storage of materials to prevent hazards. The materials you’re storing in your warehouse can’t create a hazard. Containers, bundles, bags, and other items that are stored in tiers need to be interlocked, stacked, and limited in height to ensure that they remain stable. If these materials collapse or slide, they could severely injure personnel

1910.176(c)

Your warehouse’s storage areas must be free from the buildup of hazardous materials. Any materials that might result in hazards, such as pest harborage, tripping, fires, or explosions, need to be removed from storage areas. Vegetation control must also be performed when required

While some of these OSHA guidelines and requirements are vague, you can adhere to them if you know what to avoid. OSHA maintains these requirements for several reasons. For example, they ensure a safe operating space for mechanical handling equipment. 

Your personnel will be able to use forklifts and other equipment without regularly encountering hazards involving your warehouse racking. They also prevent numerous risks and dangers in a warehouse, including everything from tripping to fires.

Pallet Racking

Common Concerns Addressed by OSHA Standards

OSHA standards address some of the common concerns that occur with warehouse racking and storage. When warehouses don’t adhere to these requirements, they are more likely to encounter issues with loose or falling items. These issues can occur because stacked materials aren’t adequately secured and stabilized. 

There are numerous reasons why OSHA cites warehouses for their racking, primarily involving maintenance, repair, and installation problems. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 states that every employer must provide a workplace free from hazards. 

Racking needs to be installed correctly to be used safely. If you don’t anchor every brace and post in a manner that adheres to manufacturer specifications, your warehouse will likely be cited. It’s also vital that you keep passageways and aisles clear to facilitate the safe movement of personnel and equipment. If one of your employees controls a forklift and runs into a material that fell from a shelf, the machine could tip over. In this scenario, the employee would likely be injured. 

Warehouses are also regularly cited because of damaged racking. While equipment damage is typical in warehouses, it’s highly recommended that you repair any dents or dings immediately after they’re discovered. Most racking damage is caused by forklifts bumping into them. This damage can reduce the strength of your racking, which is why it must be tended to quickly. 

Proper maintenance of storage areas can prevent tripping hazards, pest infestation, and fire risks. If hazardous materials are improperly stored in your warehouse, there’s a higher chance that a fire or explosion will occur, putting numerous employees at risk. 

Avoid unsafe modifications to your racking as well. Some warehouse owners attempt to make quick repairs to damaged shelving. For example, a cross member could be replaced with a piece of steel held together with fasteners. However, this is considered a non-engineered modification, which is dangerous and would likely be against OSHA requirements.

It’s crucial that your warehouse adheres to these protocols to prevent injuries and fatalities in the workplace. There are many practical solutions you can use to keep injuries at bay. While some upfront costs are associated with these solutions, implementing them is considerably less expensive than paying the fines that OSHA can assess

Ensuring Compliance with OSHA Standards

If you want to be sure that your warehouse racking is compliant with OSHA requirements, there are several things you can do. For example, it’s highly recommended that you perform regular in-house assessments to measure the safety of your existing racking system. A visual inspection of your racking should inform you of any areas that need attention. The various types of damage that you should be on the lookout for include the following:

  • Beam damage
  • Missing components, which can consist of cross-aisle ties, beam safety pins, crossbars, and wall ties
  • Footplate damage
  • Anchor damage
  • Diagonal and horizontal strut issues
  • Leaning frames
  • Damaged decking
  • Overloaded frames and beams
  • Column damage

If some aspects of this system aren’t compliant, change them immediately to avoid workplace injuries. Ensure your storage system is regularly maintained to reduce the issues caused by general wear and tear. By performing preventive maintenance, you can address potential hazards before they occur. 

Pallet Racking

Implement proper blocking, stacking, and interlocking of materials to ensure they don’t fall or slip from their original position. These materials should only move when they are being loaded and unloaded. When performing an in-house inspection, you should be able to notice any instances of poor material stacking or interlocking. However, only some pieces of damage or loose components are easily visible, so you should have a professional racking inspector survey the system annually.

The professional you hire should be able to identify every issue with your current racking system. They’ll also have a comprehensive understanding of all OSHA guidelines and the parts and materials used to make these systems. Their knowledge can help you remain compliant in your warehouse. 

You must also train employees on OSHA regulations and safe storage practices. If a single employee needs to understand these guidelines when stacking materials in your warehouse, your company will still be liable if an accident occurs. Make sure you use the proper safety equipment and solutions to enhance compliance. 

Conclusion

OSHA has set safety guidelines and requirements for material storage, racking, dock boards, and many other aspects of a warehouse. To ensure your warehouse is compliant with all racking regulations, follow this guide. If your existing racking system needs to be improved in some manner, it’s highly recommended that you make improvements immediately. You’ll likely pay substantial fines if a worker becomes injured because of the violation. 

In 2023, OSHA implemented a National Emphasis Program for warehouses and distribution centers. From now until July 2026, these facilities will have a higher rate of surprise inspections. By prioritizing compliance and safety in your warehouse operations, you’ll easily pass these inspections.

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