Safety and Inspection Requirements for Warehouse Racking

by | Mar 21, 2019 | Storage

Warehouse racks require a lot more than simply guardrails to meet industry safety standards.

Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not publish definitive standards associated with racking, there are certain OSHA guidelines you should follow.

The Rack Manufacturers Institute (RMI) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) offer good guidance.

What Is the Rack Manufacturers Institute?

The RMI is an association of major industrial rack suppliers. The RMI, formed in 1958, provides guidance and direction and lobbies on behalf of its members.

The RMI website publishes articles and studies related to the racking industry.

Safety is a major area of interest to the RMI.

What Is the American National Standards Institute?

The ANSI has been around since 1918. A group of engineers and scientists formed the ANSI to develop consensus standards and the voluntary following of these standards by manufacturers.

ANSI standards are used by companies worldwide and recognized and often incorporated in government-mandated manufacturing and safety minimums.

What does OSHA Say about Racking Safety?

OSHA has two areas that companies should use and ensure compliance germane to warehouse racking safety: material handling and employer responsibilities.

OSHA in its general duty clause states every employer must provide a workspace free of hazards that could possible cause serious harm or even death.

For racking systems, this means that the racks in place are used as designed. It also requires that a company has proper safety and security procedures in place, the employees are trained in these procedures, and the enterprise conducts regular inspections to ensure compliance.

For warehouses, racks should only store materials and weights for which the system is rated but also the employer must properly anchor and stabilize these racks.

The specific section of the OSHA manual states:

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.

What Does ANSI and RMI have to Say about Racking Safety

The engineers at ANSI have developed standards for steel storage racks: MH16 Specification for the Design, Testing, and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks. This comprehensive document provides guidance and minimums that all racking manufacturers should follow.

MH16 has certain limitations. The directive does not apply to drive-in or drive-through racks. The specifications are not applicable to cantilever, portable, or non-steel racks.

Company polices and inspections should include consideration of these other types of racking systems when developing warehouse policies and safety checklists.

What Are Some of the Specific Risks for Racking in Warehouses?

According to the RMI, some of the most common safety issues involving warehouse racking include

  • Forklift damage;
  • Storing more weight than the rack is certified to hold;
  • Improper rack installation and anchoring;
  • Alteration of racks by someone other than a qualified engineer; and
  • Poorly repaired damage.


New and periodic refresher training can mitigate potential safety risks.

Forklift driver, rack load capacities, and safety equipment training, along with proper signage, appropriate fire suppression systems, and work procedures and processes are important factors in risk mitigation.

Qualified Personnel

Use of qualified personnel, implicit and in some areas explicit, in the OSHA and ANSI/RMI guidelines should also be part of the safety program at any storage facility.

Rack installation should follow exactly the engineering drawings provided by the manufacturer.

Only qualified personnel or engineers should repair racks.

Personnel assigned to inspection teams must undergo training before performing any duties related to safety inspections.

Final Word

Warehouse operators have a certain special duty of care when it comes to racking systems. The many moving parts and number of personnel involved daily in warehouse operations required careful attention to all aspects of racking safety.

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