Storing goods and materials safely

Safe use of shelves, racks and pallets


Most businesses use shelves to store goods and materials. Ware houses and factories often use racking units and pallets for storage.

Shelving and racking safety

Shelving and racking must be suitable for its purpose. You must install and maintain these properly.

Ensure that:

  • floors are sound and level
  • you follow the manufacturer's installation instructions
  • where you need to fix shelving or racking to a wall, the wall can support the load
  • where appropriate, you provide special safety ladders to avoid people climbing on shelving
  • you space units correctly to allow easy access for staff 
  • workers can use mechanical-handling equipment such as forklift trucks if necesssary
  • you align shelves and racks properly and goods don't overhang shelves
  • you display correct maximum loads for racking 
  • workers use personal protective equipment where necessary
  • workers stack items correctly - put the heaviest at the bottom where possible
  • materials that employees need are readily accessible - for example, not above head height

Check shelving and racking units regularly for any obvious signs of physical or chemical damage.

Pallets safety

If you use pallets with racking units, you should avoid:

  • using a pallet which can't cope with its load
  • poorly designed or constructed pallets
  • using damaged pallets
  • using the wrong type of pallet for the racking system used or the material or substance stored
  • poor handling of pallets

You must use any mechanical-handling equipment, such as forklift trucks, safely. Anyone operating a forklift needs to be fully trained. People in areas where forklifts operate must be aware of the warning alarms, signs and notices and what they mean.