10 Shelving Safety Tips to Keep your Warehouse OSHA Approved

OSHA Approved Warehouse Shelving

Warehouses are the logistical hubs of any storage-based business, forming an integral part of the supply chain with quality equipment and efficient inventory management.

Although it’s crucial to ensure your facility has adequate pallet racking systems, shelving, and material handling equipment, keeping workers safe should be the main priority. Warehouse accidents can result in serious employee injuries, inventory loss, and costly delays in operations.

Accidents often result in a visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The business can face hefty fines and follow-up visits if the facility doesn’t meet OSHA regulations. Even if the accident wasn’t management’s fault, the paperwork and resulting lost time can be burdensome and adversely impact your bottom line.

Since you can’t always control your employees’ actions, the best way to prevent accidents is to make your infrastructure as safe as possible. However, training employees is still critical since there is no way to make a warehouse or factory completely hazard-free.

In addition to following OSHA requirements (a storage rack safety guideline), businesses must proactively protect shelving from damage and monitor any signs of wear and tear or leaning that occur over time.

Install Height-Appropriate Shelving

The OSHA standard for maximum freestanding shelf height is 15 feet. However, outside of this standard, OSHA is vague about specifics for shelving safety. Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, warehouse organizations can be held responsible for an accident if they fail to do their due diligence to protect their employees.

Essentially, this means all storage areas and equipment must be installed appropriately, at a safe height, and with sufficient safety accessories to prevent accidents. Otherwise, a warehouse can be cited for failing to provide a safe working environment for its workers.

To minimize the risk of a shelving collapse or falling inventory, install shelving that falls inside the OSHA standards. In manual handling facilities, OSHA encourages storage companies to use shelves at a medium height, allowing pickers to access items without reaching or stretching at an unsafe angle.

The heaviest items should be placed at the bottom of the unit for added security. Storing lightweight goods on upper tiers reduces the risk of injury or product damage if items come loose.

If a facility uses high shelving units, they should be bolted to each other, to the floor, and a wall if possible. Tiers shall be stacked in a height-to-depth ratio of 6:1 or lower. Securing shelving with insufficient depth can cause an imbalance, creating dangers when loading and unloading.

OSHA also recommends that materials shall not create a hazard. If goods are stored out of reach of employees, workers should be provided with the necessary handling equipment for easy access.

Choose the Right Load Capacity

Industrial shelving is labeled with a specific load capacity, helping users identify the weight and volume of goods each unit is capable of supporting. According to OSHA, the weight of stored materials must not exceed safety limits. OSHA also recommends clearly marking storage equipment with safe load capacities to minimize the risk of employee error.

It is easy to forget a shelf’s load limitation, especially in facilities that process high volumes of different goods. Similar-sized products do not necessarily weigh the same, so warehouse management must prioritize warehouse layout and labeling to ensure safe and efficient product flow.

We stock a variety of labeling and signage equipment, including Superscan insertable label holders. These are extra large displays, enabling fast and accurate identification of goods. The matte finish is durable and allows your items to be quickly scanned using a barcode reader.

Our label holders are compatible with multiple forms of storage equipment, including shelving and steel storage racks.

Opt for High-Quality Shelving Materials

Shelving is available in various styles, sizes, and materials. For industrial applications, heavy-gauge steel is a great option. It is strong, durable, and corrosion resistant, providing years of reliable service in harsh warehouse environments. Steel shelving typically has a higher load capacity than other materials, offering space efficiency in small facilities.

Opting for high-quality steel shelving helps ensure your equipment has adequate storage capacity for all items. Its durability limits damage, making it easier to maintain OSHA compliance annually. Our comprehensive inventory list includes a broad selection of industrial shelving units made from high-quality steel.

Our 200B shelving units come with three complete high load-bearing shelves, each with a maximum weight capacity of 1,100 lbs. These units are available at heights ranging from 3 to 12 feet, ensuring they fall into OSHA’s standard regulations.

A key advantage of these units is their versatility. They assemble without nuts, bolts, or clips so they can easily be set up, taken down, and reconfigured. The 200B range doesn’t require cross braces for support, providing direct access to goods from all sides. These units are a perfect option for facilities that handle a variety of product SKUs.

Steel Shelving System

Professional Installation

For shelving to perform as it should, it must be properly installed. Poorly installed equipment is a safety hazard and may collapse or sag under duress. An improper installation may also mean that the unit can’t support the maximum load capacity, making regular use extremely dangerous.

Hiring a professional to install your warehouse equipment properly improves the facility’s overall safety, reduces the risk of shelving collapse, and helps with OSHA compliance. At Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc., we employ factory-trained, licensed, and insured installation crews.

Our team is experienced in installing entire storage systems from scratch, so rest assured your new shelving will be fully operational from the beginning.

If you’re going the DIY route, it’s typically a good idea to purchase easy-to-install shelving, like boltless units. We stock rivet shelving in several sizes, configurations, and weight capacities.

Our 200A shelving units require no nuts, bolts, or clips for assembly and can be installed with a single rubber mallet. The shelves adjust on 1 to ½-inch centers, catering to products in different shapes and sizes. These low-profile units are built from industrial-strength steel and can support up to 300 lbs. per shelf.

Use Wire Cages and Guardrails

Some goods are potentially hazardous if they are involved in a forklift accident. Flammable and fragile materials should be kept quarantined and mustn’t be handled with a forklift. This includes aerosols, as a punctured aerosol could cause significant damage or even breathing problems for nearby workers.

Consider using wire cages to keep these items away from reach and erect fenced-off storage areas for forklift-free zones. You can also use flammable goods cabinets to keep flammable gas and other hazardous warehouse supplies separate from regular use shelves.

Sometimes fragile goods still need to be stored in tiers or inside pallets, making them difficult to move without machinery. In this case, consider creating safety barriers using guardrails.

This can help protect the shelving and other critical infrastructure from damage caused by forklifts or machinery. While guardrails require an initial up-front cost, they can prevent thousands of dollars in damages and lost man-hours caused by damage to shelving units.

Our stand guard ribbed rails are made from 10-gauge, high-tensile steel with durable sleeves that are welded to the posts. These guards feature a drop-in, lift-out design, offering ample protection against machinery. They can be secured further with floor mounting hardware.

Continuous Staff Training

Warehouse safety training equips employees with the knowledge and requirements to operate in a fast-paced, industrial environment and to correctly handle potentially hazardous scenarios.

OSHA provides free warehouse safety programs for workers. These courses teach a range of safety procedures and cover the necessary topics to prepare workers for workplace hazards. Warehouse managers should consider putting all employees through a basic training program to help with year-round compliance.

OSHA also mandates forklift training. Employers should never allow untrained employees to operate a forklift. Training for other equipment, such as handcarts, should also be thorough. Even employees who don’t regularly lift and load pallets require training on basic safety procedures regarding shelving zones.

All employees should undergo general safety procedures and protocol refresher training once a year.

Conduct Regular Inspections

Once all the necessary equipment and safety protocols are in place, it’s important to conduct regular inspections to ensure safe operations are continued. Daily visual inspections help managers identify obvious signs of damage or wear, while more thorough checks on a weekly and monthly basis can detect more serious issues.

All warehouse and storage facilities should be professionally inspected once per year. An authorized third-party professional has the necessary equipment and experience to determine the structural integrity of shelving units and whether they have degraded over the year. If any safety issues arise, they can be quickly addressed to avoid fines or penalties from OSHA.

Stay OSHA Compliant with High-Quality Equipment From Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc.

Shelving + Rack Systems, Inc. is a leading warehouse equipment supplier, providing an extensive range of shelving, racks, and accessories. Our industrial-grade shelving can support heavy loads in harsh environments, helping your facility maintain OSHA compliance.

We also offer ancillary services, including consultations, planning, design, and installation. Our team can guide you through the entire process if your warehouse needs a safety overhaul.

For more information on our products and services, contact us today at (800) 589-7225. You can view our complete product range at any time on our online catalog.