Businesses that handle product inventory need to be sure that warehoused items are stored correctly. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific requirements for storage of items that are stacked, especially if the stack is 5 feet or higher. OSHA keeps track of other items that are stored, such as liquids and grains. They, too, have safety requirements for employers and employees alike.
General Safety Requirements
Items that are stored in tiers or levels must be stacked and secured so that they won’t slide, fall or collapse the structure. There must be sufficient room to move through aisles and work areas, including the moving of equipment, supplies and inventory. Storage areas should be easy to walk through, well-ventilated, hazard-free environments; clean and free of trash, weeds, outdoor pests and away from flammable materials. In work areas, management is required to post the maximum storage weight in pounds per square foot that floors can hold. Workers must not stack anything more than that.
Stacking and Storing Building Materials
OSHA says that materials cannot be stored on runways and scaffolds except for what's being presently used by the worker. Bagged materials must be laid crossways every 10 bags high. Bricks cannot not be stacked higher than 7 feet and if masonry blocks are stacked higher than 6 feet, the stack needs to be tapered back. Lumber cannot have any nails in it, and if the wood is stacked by hand, the pile can only go up to 16 feet high. If they are stacked by machine, the lumber piles can be 20 feet high. Pipes and other cylindrical materials should be racked, but if they're not, they need to be stacked in a way that they don't spread or tilt.
OSHA keeps tabs on grain storage; bins and elevators have special regulations for storing and emptying rice, feed and flour mills, soybean, corn and other grains. There is no stacking limit other than what the silo can hold, but employees must undergo safety training at least once a year, or more often if the job description changes. Training must include how to enter and exit the silo, how to clean and maintain the equipment, what to do about dust accumulation and what to do if there’s a fire in the bin. Also, anytime an employee enters a grain-storage structure from a level that’s at or higher than the stored grain, he must wear a body harness.
Liquids and Hazardous Materials
OSHA has specific codes for storing a variety of liquids, chemicals, flammables and toxins, including hydrogen, oxygen, petroleum and ammonia used in workplaces. In general, hazardous and nontoxic liquids are to be stored in solid, tightly sealed containers and kept in an appropriate temperature environment.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Safety and Health Regulations for Construction - Code 126.250: General Requirements for Storage
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Safety and Health Regulations for Grain-Handling Facilities
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Safety and Health Regulations for Handling Liquids
Teri Silver began a career in 1984 as a news, sports and feature writer/reporter, anchor, editor, producer and program host for central Ohio radio and television stations. She has done work for stations including WTVN, WMNI and WOSU (NPR). Silver has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with an English minor from The Ohio State University.