OSHA Standards for Shelving

OSHA Standards for Shelving

If you use metal shelving or any other type of storage rack Rules for Special Types of Shelving and Object or system, employing these storage systems properly and using them safely requires a solid grounding in OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, standards.

Following OSHA guidance improves worker safety and your adherence to the guidance adds credibility to your brand.

Warehouse Safety Statistics

According to government sources, warehouse accidents most often involve slips, falls, and workers being injured by objects falling from shelves.

Other types of warehouse injuries related to shelving specifically include back and shoulder strains, and repetitive motion injuries.

OSHA standards include information and suggestions on placement of shelves, how to safely remove items from shelves, and proper placement of stock including weight and height limitations.

Item Placement

OSHA suggests that companies install all shelving for hand-picking between average waist and shoulder height. This avoids muscle strains by reaching too low or too high.

Stack heavier items on the bottom shelves and lighter items on shelves above. This helps to prevent the shelves from tipping over and causing injury or damage.


Warehouses should supply stepladders that have flat steps and high load limit tolerances. The ladder should be taller than the highest shelf.

For extra tall shelves, two people should operate the ladder: one person using the ladder to access the items on the shelf and the other to ensure the ladder stays in place.

Shelf Load Limitations

Warehouse operations must pay attention to shelf load limitations. For busy warehouses that may have a variety of products moving in and out regularly, planning product flow is critical.

It is easy to forget a shelf’s load limitation. Same size products do not necessarily weigh the same.

In addition to process rules, OSHA requires conspicuous signage clearly marking load limitations for the type of shelf used.

Rules for Special Types of Shelving and Objects

Depending on the items stored, there are specific recommendations and best practices warehouses should follow.

tires on shelves and racks


Safe storage of tires on shelves and racks requires more than just stacking them on a shelf or rack.

OSHA standards require tires and similar items to be “stacked, racked, blocked, interlocked, or otherwise secured to prevent sliding, falling, or collapse.”

Grocery Shelves

Grocery shelves in retail stores or public warehouses must have spring-loaded partitions on a shelf. The barriers automatically push another of the same type of product forward when a customer or worker removes one.

Using this system reduces any strain a customer or worker may experience when trying to reach for an item at the back of a shelf.

For employees, in grocery and other warehouses, the facility must have stools and/or knee pads to alleviate strains when workers regularly and for prolonged periods access shelves below approximately waist high.

Bricks and Masonry

You can’t stack bricks, even if the shelf weight limits allow it, more than seven feet tall. After four feet you must taper the stacks back by two inches for each foot above four feet.

For masonry blocks, if you stack them on a shelf higher than six feet, you must taper the stack by ½ block per tier.


Aisles between shelves must allow free movement of equipment and personnel to access shelves. Warehouses must have an active policy and procedures in place to keep aisles clear.

Mezzanines and Shelves above Ground Level

OSHA regulations address special care considerations when working with shelves or stored goods at great heights, such as on a mezzanine or above the ground level.

Storage facilities must provide fall arrest equipment to meet OSHA safety requirements.

Any scaffolding or runways must remain clear of anything other than supplies used for the work being done.

Contact Us

Please contact us toll free at 800-589-7225 (RACK) if you have any questions about OHSA regulations and guidelines and how they impact your facility. We have more than 50,000 square feet of inventory and can help you find the perfect solution for your material handling and storage needs, so you do not violate any OSHA regulations.

Our ISO 9001:2008 certification ensures that our factory trained and insured professional installation crews get the job completed per OSHA guidelines.