When storing pallets outside or indoors, there are some best practices to keep workers and your pallet inventory safe. Whether preventing mold, fire hazards or stacks of pallets falling, read these tips.
Pallets make our global economy work as hundreds of millions of pallets help transport most items in our daily lives. With that many pallets floating around, there have to be places where large amounts of them are stored. Storing large amounts pallets, especially wooden ones, creates interesting problems. Tall stacks of pallets are common at almost every warehouse and distribution center, and can become fire and topple hazards. The best pallet storage practices will be different for outdoor and indoor storage.
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Storing pallets outside is one of the best ways to increase safety inside your facility. The less pallets stored inside the less fuel for and risk of fire. However, being exposed to the elements brings a whole other host of potential issues for your pallets.
Starting with legality, neither OSHA nor any other governmental agency has detailed guidelines about stacked pallets outdoors besides that they should be stable and give fire sprinklers 18 inches of clearance. Most rules around outdoor pallet storage are made by insurance companies that insure against warehouse damage, although your municipality may have special rules. In general, insurance companies will direct you to have:
Stable pallet stacks. To prevent a tall stack of pallets from falling and potentially hurting someone, you have to ensure pallets are stacked well. Pallet edges should be lined up and damaged pallets should be taken out of stacks to be repaired. Additionally, pallets should only be stored and stacked on their deck boards, not on their sides.
A good repair program. When pallets need repair, they’re generally less stable and more prone to breaking, collapse or falling over. Anything form loose nails to damaged or missing deck boards can affect the stability of a pallet. Regularly inspect your inventory for pallets that need repair or should be disposed of. For on-site pallet repair services contact our team.
Separated storage. Pallets should be stored a safe distance away from other fire hazards to prevent a fire from spreading rapidly. Exact distance will vary, but generally pallets should be clearly separate from gas and fueling areas.
Insurance companies are concerned about fires and other hazards, not things like mold and rot. To prevent mold, rot and pests, the pallets should be rotated and inspected on a regular scheduled and not be stored in low-lying areas. Keeping pallets out of puddles and stacking them in way that facilitates airflow will be the best way to prevent mold and rot.
Preferred pallet storage area be in nearby room or building away from main storage areas by fire-retardant wall and protected doorways
Steel columns in the storage room should have fire coverings good for one hour, and the wall coverings good for three hours
Pallet storage room with pallet stacks under 12 feet high need NFPA 13 standard sprinkler system
Pallet storage room with stacks over 12 feet should have an Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinkler system
Additionally, wood pallet stacks in groups of four should be separated from another by at least eight feet or be separated by 25 feet of commodities. For exact stack height regulation and sprinkler requirements, consult these charts from the NFPA 13 2016 Guidebook titled Standard for Installation of Sprinkler Systems. The K-Factor is the rate of water discharge from the sprinkler nozzles.
These guidelines should be a great start to making your stored pallet inventory safer for your warehouse and workers. Following these tips will reduce likelihood of fires, pallet stack collapses and mold and pests. Remember to double-check municipal laws as local governments or organizations may have additional guidelines or laws.