The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued citations for workplaces that fail to adequately anchor pallet racks, leading to structural failure — and it’s likely that they’ll continue to do so. However, OSHA pallet rack anchor requirements aren’t among the clearest regulations on the books. At least two OSHA rules may be applied in citations of workplaces that fail to anchor pallet racks, and they’re both quite general.
The good news is that OSHA does point to some technical specifications for anchoring pallet racks, which we’ll introduce later in this article. First, here are the two OSHA standards that cover pallet rack anchoring:
1. Section (5)(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970: The General Duty Clause
When we discuss “OSHA regulations,” we typically refer to the standards that OSHA writes, maintains, and enforces. These are contained within Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The OSH Act is a different sort of rule, although it is both legally actionable and frequently cited. It’s contained in Title 29 of the United States Code (USC). While the CFR contains rules made by executive agencies, the USC lists statutes, or laws passed by Congress.
The General Duty Clause of the OSH Act requires employers to provide “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to…employees.” When pallet racking fails because it hasn’t been anchored, OSHA may issue a citation based on this legal responsibility; that’s exactly what they did in a 2015 General Duty Clause citation for a facility in which “pallet racks were not anchored and bolted to the ground.”
2. OSHA Standard 1910.176(b): Secure Storage
Standard 1910.176 in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations covers materials handling and storage in general terms. Paragraph (b) of that standard states simply that “Storage of material shall not create a hazard.” That general language may be applied to unsecured pallet racking. However, the standard doesn’t give exact details on how facilities must ensure their storage systems don’t create hazards.
So while both of these OSHA rules may appear on a citation, they don’t provide the technical information facility managers need to comply. Luckily, OSHA does refer to a technical document that provides this information: the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard MH16.1-2012: Specifications for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks.
The ANSI Standard for Pallet Rack Anchor Requirements
In the OSHA citation listed above, inspectors write that “one feasible and acceptable method to correct the hazards noted” is to “conform with installation and assembly instructions” in ANSI MH16.1-2012. In particular, the citation report notes that Section 1.4.7 of that document requires racking systems to include column base plates, anchored to the floor with anchor bolts. The ANSI standards provide further specifications for pallet rack base plates and anchor bolts, including force limits these components must be able to withstand.
The ANSI Specifications for the Design, Testing and Utilization of Industrial Steel Storage Racks is available from the ANSI webstore; this site should also list any future updates or new editions of the standard as they develop. This document may not technically list OSHA pallet rack anchor requirements, but it’s the authority OSHA inspectors recommend in order to maintain compliance. For more information about OSHA regulations covering pallet handling, see our previous blog post here.