Pallet racking operation and maintenance

Guidance for employers on how to eliminate or reduce the workplace health and safety risks in warehouses and storage areas by correctly operating and maintaining pallet racking.



Pallet racking is a storage system that organizes pallets of material in rows on metal shelves.

Damaged or overloaded racking can be hazardous in workplaces. Racking can collapse onto employees stacking pallets and cause serious injury or death.

This guidance is for employers but may also be useful for contractors and self-employed persons, including:

  • warehouse managers
  • operations managers
  • general managers
  • maintenance managers
  • forklift operators
  • store persons
  • health and safety representatives

Employers, contractors and self-employers persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that racking equipment and the way it is used is safe for employees and others.

This guidance is for standard 'selective' pallet racking. Additional safety measures may be needed for cantilever, drive-in, double-deep, pallet-live, push-back or other specialised types of racking.

For information of different types of racking and other racking resources see Further information.

Setting up, operating and maintaining pallet racking

Racking should be set up, operated and maintained according to manufacturer instructions and AS 4084.2:2023 – Steel storage racking Part 2: Operation and Maintenance.

Racking design

You should ensure racking is designed:

  • for the size, shape and weight of the products being stored
  • to be compatible with the pallets and the material handling equipment used in the workplace. For example, the aisle width should be matched to the turning circle of the forklift used for picking and replenishment.

Any modifications to racking, including the introduction of different forklifts or storing different size, shape or weights of products should be checked by the original supplier, manufacturer or designer. If in doubt, get advice from the manufacturer, installer, or a competent person with experience in racking design and construction.

A competent person is a person who has acquired, through training, qualification or experience, the knowledge and skills to carry out the task.

More information on pallet racking components and definitions are available in Further information.

Collision protection

Lower sections of the uprights, a component that makes up the racking frame, may be exposed to possible collisions with forklifts or other moving equipment. You should ensure that racking is fitted with upright protectors and end-of-rack protectors to protect the racking against the impact of any collision.

Rear protection for single row racking

Racking may be installed as a single row.

Where there is pedestrian access along the rear of the racking, rear protection should be installed to prevent loads falling out of the back of the racking and striking or crushing employees and other pedestrians.

Safe working load

Unit load is an individual stored item, for example, a pallet of goods to be stored. The safe working load (SWL) is the maximum weight of unit loads that should be placed on racking to ensure it remains safe.

SWL should never be exceeded for the unit load — pallets of goods to be stored — pallet beam or bay. The SWL is available from:

  • the manufacturer instructions
  • AS 4084.2:2023 – Steel storage racking Part 2: Operation and Maintenance
  • modern inventory management systems which include data about goods dimensions and weight

Consider how your inventory management system can be used to monitor the total weight being loaded into the pallet racking. This could include using the inventory scanning tool, which can alert employees while scanning, and help prevent placing unit loads that exceed the SWL into the pallet racking.

It is important to measure the weight of each unit load being placed into racking.

For uneven loads where a large load is only supported at 2 or 3 points, refer to the supplier to determine whether the racking is capable of supporting that load.

Note: Changes to the racking configuration alters the safe working loads. Only the supplier, their representative or a suitably competent person should make changes to the racking configuration.

Safe working load signs for racking

Employers should provide information to employees about the SWL for pallet racking. For example, place signs in visible areas that include:

  • racking manufacturer's name, supplier's name and the installation date
  • designer's name
  • working unit load limit
  • total working unit load limit for each pallet beam level
  • total working unit load limit for each bay
  • maximum distance from the base plate level to the first beam level and maximum distance between first and second beam levels

Figure 1 shows an example of a typical SWL sign for racking. SWL in this case is based to a unit load of 1200kg on a standard pallet.

Illustration of a 3 tier pallet rack.
Figure 1: Typical SWL sign for racking. This diagram is based on original images available in AS 4084:1993 – Steel storage racking.

Changes to the racking design or components

Any changes to pallet racking design or components, such as replacement of uprights, bracings, beams, clips or other components should:

  • be supervised by a competent person, including when reconfiguring the height and placement of beams in the racking system
  • take into account the effect on load limits
  • include adjustments to operating procedures, signs and drawings

Always ensure that parts are only replaced with compatible parts supplied by the equipment manufacturer.

This ensures the integrity and load limits of the racking.

A person who designs a structure used at a workplace, must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that it is designed to be safe and without risks to the health of persons using it for a purpose for which it was designed.

When using alternative parts, ensuring the integrity and load limits of the racking is ensuring it is safe and without risks when used for the purpose it was designed.

The employer, subcontractors or self-employed persons should never make physical changes to uprights, bracings, beams or components, such as welding on additional cleats or bearers.

Operating instructions

Refer to the manufacturer's instructions and drawings of the installed configuration when instructing employees.

Operating instructions need to be specific to the racking provided at the workplace. They should focus on the size, shape and weight of unit loads being stored and the method of loading and unloading.

This includes which forklifts are permitted or required to be used.

As a minimum, operating instructions should include the:

  • correct application and use of the equipment
  • prohibitions on unauthorised alterations
  • prohibition of climbing on racking
  • requirement to report any damage incurred due to impact so that it can be assessed
  • inspection of racking to ensure correct use
  • adherence to Safe Working Loads (SWL)
  • maintenance of correct clearances between racking and stored unit loads
  • method of securing product to the pallet before storing in the racking
  • correct selection and use of load handing equipment such as forklifts

Operation and maintenance of racking

Refer to the supplier's technical information for the maximum safe load.

Do not alter racking structure without:

  • checking the structure against the supplier's technical information, or
  • the necessary approval from the supplier

Instruct operators in the correct and safe use of the equipment. Any damage to equipment due to impact can seriously affect safety.

Figure 2: Example of accidental damage to structure.

Regularly inspect for:

  • correct use of equipment
  • correct loads — ensuring they are within safe limits
  • accidental damage to structure components

Refer to the checklist in AS 4084.2:2023 Steel storage racking operation and maintenance. Contact the supplier for any questions.

Pallet design for storing goods in racking

The design of the pallet should take into account the nature of the goods in the unit load including size, shape and weight.

Do not change the design of the pallet unless it has been agreed to by the racking supplier or on the advice of a competent person.

Ensure that the:

  • pallet design can support the weight of the unit load and
  • pallet design 'keys' into the racking to stop the unit load from being dislodged

Where mesh decks or other forms of support have been fitted to the pallet racking, then a competent person should ensure it is suitable for supporting the unit load.

To help prevent problems, a competent person should assess any change to the pallet design.

For example:

  • Changing from timber pallets to post pallets will put concentrated loads on racking beams and the pallets may not key into the beams.
  • Using pallets larger than in the racking design can overlap pallets behind or push them off their supports.
  • Using pallets smaller than allowed for in the racking can allow them to drop through.
  • Using skid pallets in racking without timber decks can allow them to drop through.

Note: Overseas pallets are often different in size and may not fit Australian racking. See Further information.

Potential problems that may require changes to pallet design include:

  • boxes, cartons and other items stored on pallets overhanging the pallet may require larger pallet sizes to correctly support the unit load
  • unit loads on upper levels containing boxes, cartons and other loose loads that can fall could have the pallet replaced with skids or crates that key into the pallet racking that enclose the loose items

Report safety risks

Employees should report all safety risks relating to using and maintaining racking to their employer.

The employer must reduce the safety risk so far as is reasonably practicable.

In some circumstances WorkSafe must be notified immediately for example:

  • incidents where a person requires immediate medical treatment or
  • incidents that expose a person to a serious risk to their health or safety emanating from an immediate or imminent exposure to
    • the fall or release from a height of any plant, substance or thing
    • the collapse, overturning, failure or malfunction of, or damage to, any plant
    • the collapse or partial collapse of a building or structure

View Reporting an incident: Criteria for notifiable incidents in Further information.

Damage report

Employees should report any damage to their employer immediately so it can be inspected and assessed. Employers should apply a method of recording damage to components such as labelled stick-on tags to show the location and level of damage (see Damage action flowchart).

Damage action flowchart

Employers should record damage to components using the following steps are in accordance with section 5.5 of AS 4084.2:2023 – Steel storage racking Part 2: Operation and Maintenance.

When racking is damaged, employers should assess and classify the damage as:

  • very serious damage
  • hazardous damage, or
  • acceptable damage

Following the assessment, management should advise the health and safety representative.


Pallet racking should be inspected frequently for damage and overloading. This helps to ensure the correct use of the system.

The frequency of informal inspections should be based on the recommendations of the manufacturer or competent person. For example, daily or weekly.

You should use simple gauges or measuring tools when inspecting the racking.

A competent person should also complete a formal inspection of pallet racking every 12 months. If the racking system is more than 8 metres high, an elevating work platform to inspect the upper levels should be used.

A report documenting the inspection should be provided to the employer including observations and proposals of any corrective actions required.

Inspectors should consider the following questions:

Unit loads

Are the correct unit loads being stored in the racking?

Do the goods being stored in the racking match the intended design of the racking including the size, shape and weight of the unit load? Goods overhanging the edge of the pallet can indicated the size of the goods do not match the intended design of the pallet racking.

Are the unit loads stable?

Ensure the unit loads — including pallets — are correctly keyed into the pallet racking and are stable. Pallets that are not level may not be correctly keyed into the racking or are damaged.

Are the goods secured to the pallets?

Loose goods need to be secured by wrapping or strapping to the pallet. Boxes that are open, leaning or overturned can cause goods to fall from upper levels.

Are the correct clearances maintained?

Unit loads that contact uprights or beams can cause damage to the pallet racking.

Unit loads that are over-height can contact overhead beams and cause upper levels to become dislodged during loading and unloading.

Unit loads that exceed the design depth can damage or push against racking in the row behind it.

Ensure that correct clearance as noted in the manufacturer’s instructions is maintained.


Are beams overloaded?

A large amount of deflection indicates overloading of the racking. Where 2 beams connect at an upright, the beam connectors should be parallel. If racking is or has been overloaded, the beam connectors may be deformed (form a 'V'). There will also be evidence of ‘permanent set’ in unloaded beams. In this situation, the racking should be inspected by a competent person or engineer.

Are beams or welds damaged?

Check for obvious signs of beams being hit by a pallet or forklift. Damaged beams should be replaced. If a beam has been hit and is only showing minor damage, ensure welds are checked by a competent person for cracking.

Are beam connectors or safety clips missing?

Safety clips enable beams to be dislodged if struck by a forklift reducing the likelihood of structural damage. Examine beams for damage and replace missing clips. Replacement clips must be of a design approved by the equipment manufacturer and should be readily available at the workplace. If clips are regularly being dislodged, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine why and implement corrective action.

Fixed bolts must not be used to retain beams as this can cause significant damage to the beams if struck by a forklift.

Has a beam popped out of its upright?

If a beam has popped out this will mean it is only suspended on one end connector and could collapse.

Safe working load (SWL)

Are rack load signs posted?

Ensure bays display the SWL signs provided by the designer. Ensure that the rack configurations have not been changed.

Are unit loads being exceeded?

Review unit loads to ensure SWL is not being exceeded for individual beams and the entire bay. Can a report be generated from the inventory management system to identify individual beams or bays that are at capacity that should be audited or redistributed to reduce loads.

Uprights and footplates

Are uprights damaged?

If an upright shows significant damage (see Figure 2), is twisted or contains splits or cracks, replace it or splice in a new section.

Splices should be approved by the equipment manufacturer. If the upright is damaged, replace it and the footplate.

Are splices in good condition?

Check the condition of all splices. They should be above the first beam level, not below 1.5m, and no more than one splice should be between any two adjacent beam levels.

Out of plumb racking

Is the racking vertical?

Out of plumb racking is usually caused by incorrect installation but also as a result of impact, overloading, or settling of the floor slab. Contact the manufacturer or installer.


Are racking braces damaged?

Replace bent, horizontal or diagonal braces. For bracing, the member deviation from a 1m long straight edge in either plane should not be more than 10mm.

Floor fixings

Are floor fixings installed?

Check that floor fixings are installed and undamaged. If damaged, replace floor fixings and the footplate. At least 2 anchors are required in each footplate.

Note: To reduce the damage caused by pallets hitting the uprights, footplates and bracing while being lifted by forklifts, some workplaces install racking with beams, at knee height, in the bottom bay. This can also assist with manual picking activities as it raises the height of the items to be picked.

Illustration of cross section view of upright sections and the method of measurement.
Figure 3: Typical upright sections and method of measurement. Image shows direction of frame bracing ± 3.0mm, direction of rack beams ± 5.0mm, 1m gauge length of straight edge,3.0 mm maximum bend in upright section in 1m gauge length, 5.0mm maxim.*

*This diagram is based on original images available in AS 4084:1993 – Steel storage racking.

Further information