Storing goods and materials safely

Safe use of shelves, racks and pallets

Most businesses use shelves to store goods and materials. Racking units are often used for storage in warehouses and factories, typically alongside pallets.

Shelving and racking

Shelving and racking must be suitable for its purpose and installed and maintained properly. Ensure that:

  • floors are sound and level
  • you follow the manufacturer's installation instructions
  • where shelving or racking needs to be fixed to a wall, the wall can support the load
  • where appropriate, special safety ladders are provided to avoid people climbing on shelving
  • units are spaced correctly to allow easy access for staff and, if necessary, mechanical-handling equipment such as forklift trucks
  • shelves and racks are properly aligned and goods don't overhang shelves
  • correct maximum loads for racking are displayed
  • personal protective equipment is used where necessary
  • items are stacked correctly - put the heaviest at the bottom where possible
  • materials that employees frequently 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.


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.