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How to use industrial shelving safely

When installing shelving within your workplace, ensuring that it has been put together correctly and that it is suitable for its purpose is vital. If not, the risk of the entire shelving unit collapsing and injuring someone or causing damage to stock becomes dangerously high.

Follow our comprehensive guide to find out how to use shelving correctly and safely to ensure people and goods in your workplace are protected.

Respecting limits

Archive shelving

Before purchasing a shelving unit it’s important to know exactly what will be stored on it. This guides you in the right direction to know what type of shelving unit to buy, and what the maximum shelf capacity should be.

Installing the wrong shelving type for your business runs the risk of valuable resources and money being wasted on something that does not fit your requirements.

Light-duty shelving

If you need a shelving unit for a school or office setting and know it will be used for admin purposes, a lightweight shelving unit should be sufficient.

Files and paperwork are quite light, so a large weight capacity isn’t needed in this case.

Light duty shelving units can also be used in stockrooms and warehouses as long as the items being stored do not exceed the upper weight limits specified.

Take a look at our range of archive shelving which features a maximum weight of 265kg per shelf, making it ideal for all kinds of files, documents, electronics and even delicate stock.

Medium-duty shelving

From stockrooms to retail units, garages and catering outlets, a strong medium-duty shelving unit is the most common piece of equipment found in these settings.

Of course, each one of these work environments has different requirements, which is why First Mats has a wide range of shelving system to suit all workplaces.

See what's available by browsing through our collections of durable metal shelving, chrome wire shelving, and cold room shelving

Ensure you check the uniform distributed load (UDL) of a shelving system before purchasing. This refers to how much weight the unit can withstand when the weight is evenly spread across the whole shelf.

Chrome Wire Shelving

Make sure that the total weight of the products being stored does not exceed the UDL to prevent it becoming a hazard in the workplace.

Heavy-duty shelving

Most, if not all, warehouses and factories will need a highly dependable and strong shelving system to keep their business going.

A strong, heavy-duty shelving unit will typically have a maximum weight limit of at least 300-350kg so it can be used to store most products effortlessly.

Heavy-duty shelving systems, such as our warehouse shelving, are regularly combined with lifting and stacking systems, such as our pallet racking.

When they are used together, you can benefit from increased floor space as well as great flexibility to set up the storage system exactly how you require.

How to prevent accidents

Accidents can occur within any workplace, no matter how many safety rules are in place. With that being said, there are some precautions that can be taken to greatly reduce the likelihood of accidents, some of which could lead to injury.

We’ve put together a list of some of the most common problems when it comes to shelving safety, and how to fix them.

Falling stock

Problem: stock and boxes keep falling off the shelves, becoming a trip hazard to anyone who walks nearby.

Solution: buying the right type of shelving for your goods can help you store items correctly and keep them in place.

Warehouse shelving

Trips and falls

Problem: people tripping over in the walkways between racking aisles, or falling over stock that sticks out the end of a shelving unit.

Solution: keeping your workplace tidy and removing all boxes and items from the floor greatly reduces the chances of someone tripping over. Using the appropriate shelving system for your stock type also stops items protruding and causing accidents.


Problem: having a high shelving unit makes employees have to stretch and twist further to reach goods, which can cause back problems, strains and muscle aches.

Solution: purchasing the right lifting equipment to go with your shelving systems is ideal for keeping your workforce safe. If items are stored at height, ensure there are appropriate ladders or steps available. And if heavy items need to be moved make sure there is a sack truck or forklift nearby to help.


Wearing the right safety gear

As important as it is to install the correct shelving system in your workplace, keeping your employees safe by providing them with the right equipment is just as important. Some additional personal safety considerations include:

  • Hi-vis jackets: to ensure people are visible even in poorly lit conditions.
  • Correct footwear: wearing shoes or boots with a steel toe cap can prevent accidents and bones from being broken if an item falls off a shelf, or when using a pallet truck.
  • Hard hats: to prevent injury if an item falls off a high shelf.


Our top tips

By following the safety information outlined above, you can keep your workplace running safely and smoothly all year long.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind that can boost workplace safety even more:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when putting shelving units together.
  • Ensure a wall can support the load when attaching a shelving unit to it.
  • Make sure shelves and racks are aligned properly and goods don't overhang their shelves.
  • Always display and stick to the correct maximum loads for racking and shelving units.
  • Stack items on shelving correctly, with the heaviest items at the bottom.
  • Check shelving and racking units regularly for any obvious signs of physical or chemical damage.


We hope you have found this guide on shelving unit safety to be of use. You can view our full range of shelving and racking here.

If you have any questions about shelving or racking units, or any other product from our website, please get in touch with our friendly team who will be more than happy to help.