Stacking Pallets: OSHA Regulations

Stacking empty pallets saves space and removes tripping and collision hazards from warehouse floors. But if you stack pallets carelessly or overly high, warehouse managers could be creating an even bigger hazard. To figure out the best practices for pallet stacking, let’s take a look at what OSHA and other regulators have to say.

OSHA addresses pallet stacking in standard 1917.14, which reads, “Cargo, pallets and other material stored in tiers shall be stacked in such a manner as to provide stability against sliding and collapse.” That sounds reasonable. But the question now becomes, “How do you stabilize a stack of pallets?”

Stabilizing Pallet Stacks for Optimal Safety

Stacking Pallets: OSHA RegulationsNever mix sizes when stacking pallets. An odd-sized pallet near the bottom of the stack could compromise the stability of the entire load, and that’s a dangerous proposition. Never stack pallets on their sides—this also creates instability.

Don’t reuse damaged pallets. Splintered ends and protruding nails can cause serious injuries to workers. Pallets with missing pieces will eventually break and can cause loss of product or staff injuries in the process.

Stacking frames or racks can add a great deal of stability to a pallet stack. Just be sure never to overload them or allow employees to climb on them. OSHA technically allows stacks up to 15 feet high, but many, including the insurance industry and fire agencies, recommend stopping at a 6-foot stack.

Here’s a quick recap of pallet stacking best practices:

  • Never stack mixed sizes of pallets.
  • Never stack pallets on their sides.
  • Use pallet stacking frames or stacking racks to stabilize the load.
  • Don’t reuse damaged pallets.
  • Keep stacks at a safe height.

National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) Chimes In

Stacked pallets aren’t just a falling hazard, they’re also a fire hazard. In fact, the NFPA has a number of recommendations to reduce the fire risk associated with pallets.

  • If storing pallets inside, have no more than four stacks and stack no higher than 6 feet.
  • Do not store pallets within 25 feet of other commodities.
  • Stacked plastic pallets should not reach higher than 4 feet, and even then, sprinkler systems must be specially designed since plastic pallets have a higher heat release than wood.
  • Storing pallets outside and far from any building is the best when possible.

Create a Plan and Stick to It

Warehouse managers need a plan for empty pallets. OSHA standard 1926.25(a) reads, “During the course of construction, alteration, or repairs, form and scrap lumber with protruding nails, and all other debris, shall be kept cleared from work areas, passageways, and stairs, in and around buildings or other structures.”

Leaving empty pallets where pedestrians walk and lift trucks drive creates a major safety hazard. Neatly stacking pallets using best practices solves this issue.


29 CFR 1917.14: Stacking of cargo and pallets.OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.

29 CFR 1926.25: Housekeeping.OSHA. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor, n.d. Web. 13 July 2017.

Kiley, Brian. “How Should I Store Idle Pallets?TheSilverLining. West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, 20 June 2014. Web. 13 July 2017.