Stacking and Storage: Introduction, Guides and Regulations

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Irrespective of the nature of your business, sooner or later you are going to have to stack and store various products, equipment, or other resources. Stacking and storage happens everywhere daily – at warehouses, businesses and even at home. 

Material needs to be handled and stored in a way to prevent deterioration and damage to the materials or equipment, to ensure the safety of employees and non-interference with general public life including the safety of the public and prevention of damage to public property and the environment.

There are stacking and storage regulations in South Africa for all workplaces and the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 makes provisions for guidelines on the stacking of items and how to conduct stacking and storage procedures in a safe manner.

Stacking and storage

What is stacking and storage?

When a company has a space constraint, they are forced to utilize the available space in different ways, so if storage can’t be done horizontally then vertical storage is the only option. There are obviously risks involved with stacking goods and items, and sometimes machinery such as forklifts need to be used to assist. These need to be operated by competently trained people who are aware of the risks associated with utilising such equipment. Even if the stacking is at a low level that can be done manually, adequate training at an accredited centre like Absolute Health Services is necessary to assist in reducing injuries or ill-health to the workers.

A brief overview of the OHS Act General Safety Regulation 8. Stacking of articles.

  1. No employer shall require or permit the building of stacks which consist of successive tiers, one on top of the other, unless for example: the base is level and can sustain the weight; the pallets and containers are in good condition.
  2. An employer shall not permit: items to be taken from a stack except from the top most tier; anyone to climb onto the stack unless they are using a ladder or other safe means.
  3. An employer shall take steps to ensure that: stacks that are in danger of collapsing are immediately dismantled safely; vehicles, machinery or people do not endanger the stack stability.
  4. Unless a stack is otherwise supported, an employer shall take steps to ensure that tiers of stacked material: are secured by laying up articles in a header and stretcher fashion and that the corners are securely bonded; are stepped back every fifth tier if the containers are of varying sizes or if they are the same size, vertically stacked but the height of the stack does not exceed the bottom in width.
  5. Notwithstanding the provisions of sub-regulation (4), free standing stacks that are built with the aid of machinery may, with the approval of an inspector, be built to a height and in a manner permitted by the nature of the containers being stacked: Provided that – (a) the stacks are stable and do not overhang; and (b) the operator of the stacking machinery is rendered safe as regards falling articles

Stacking and storage

Principles to consider when implementing a safe stacking and storage programme include:

The health and safety act states that stacks should be constructed based on both the type of material as well as the shape of the material. Stacking should be done according to the material shape and material type i.e. climatically sensitive materials, durable materials, materials vulnerable to rough handling, inflammable and hazardous materials.

Safe stacking and storage guidelines indicate that segregation of stock is important as anything combustible or hazardous should not be stored in the same area as other goods.

If stacking equipment is being used e.g. trolleys or slings, these must be kept in a safe and serviceable condition.

3 general tips for safe operating procedures for stacking and storage 

  1. Create sturdy bases and place the heaviest boxes at the bottom: Never stack boxes on anything collapsible and if you have to place them on the floor, consider using wooden pallets to reduce water damage risk. 
  2. Group similar sized boxes together: These consistent sizes help keep your stacks more stable even when they become quite high.
  3. Lay your boxes like bricks: Creating a wall pattern rather than a column distributes container weight more evenly. These stacks are less likely to fall or result in caved-in boxes.

What are the risks of stacking?

Most stacking and storage accidents are directly related to human error with injuries from moving or handling goods incorrectly being a common occurrence. Employees need to be properly trained in safe work instruction for stacking and storage in order to prevent and foresee potential dangers.

Stacking and storage is predominantly done using either pallets or racking systems. Pallet systems can fail due to poor design, damaged pallets or incorrect handling. Racking systems may have design, structural or incorrect loading faults.
Accidents can occur when an untrained person uses an incorrect piece of equipment for an incorrect task.

The environment also plays a role in how long-time storage i.e. heat, moisture, lighting, ventilation etc can affect both the material stored and the stacking structure. If a product is prone to deteriorating due to moisture or heat over an extended period, it could cause the stacking structure to collapse and injure someone in the surrounding area.

Stacking and storage

Why is proper storing and stacking important?

It is the employer’s responsibility to make sure that their company has stacking and storage rules and that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure that all goods and materials that are to be stacked and stored are done in a way that does not pose a danger to anyone in the vicinity. The employees themselves also carry a responsibility to ensure this is done correctly. The efficient handling and storing of goods and materials are vital to industry. In addition to raw materials, these operations provide a continuous flow of parts and assemblies through the workplace and ensure that materials are available when needed.

Absolute Health Services offers a Stacking and Storage 1-day course which assists delegates in gaining important theoretical knowledge and practical skills on this important subject. It includes stacking and storage procedures for South Africa as well as stacking and storage requirements in the OHS act.

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