Minimum Distances Between Pallet Racking Systems & Building Structures

Posted on April 27, 2023 - updated on December 5 2023 
Sammy Bongiorno, Eng.
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Looking for warehouse racking safety guidelines?
Here's what you need to know about clearances in the warehouse.

Our daily lives have no strict rules about what is too close for comfort. Some people go through life blissfully unaware that they make people uncomfortable by intruding on their space. Pallet racking clearance, however, has more specific regulations and guidelines that dictate the minimum distance between racking and the building's structure to comply with safety rules like OSHA regulations.

Connecting warehouse racks to building components

Pallet racks are structures designed to be self-sufficient and freestanding. Building components (i.e., walls, building columns, beams, etc.) are not typically designed to support additional loads from neighboring structures, which is why storage rack clearance is so important. Connecting pallet racks to building components allows forces to transfer between them, which could have unintended consequences. Unless a structural engineer specifically designed the structures to interact, connecting pallet racks to building components is not recommended and could prove dangerous.

warehouse palllet rack connected to building
Figure 1. Example of a pallet rack connected to the building structure (not recommended by engineers)

Pallet racking spacing requirements with a building structure

Ensuring warehouse racks are not connected to a building component is insufficient. To prevent contact between building components and pallet racks through vibrations (caused by activities in the warehouse, impact, or a seismic event), a specific storage rack clearance from the building's structure should be respected. Unless you have previously determined by seismic analysis the amplitude of movement of the racks, current standards require a minimum warehouse racking clearance equal to:

  • 5% of the racking height with the building in the down-aisle direction
  • 2% of the racking height with the building in the cross-aisle direction

The hatched area in Figure 2 represents the required clearance between a warehouse rack and the building structure.

Plan view of building/racking structure separation

Figure 2. Plan view of building/racking structures with required clearances

In the event of an impact or seismic activity, a pallet rack could damage a building component if it’s too close, compromising its load-carrying capacity. The rack could also damage non-load-bearing components such as non-supporting walls, plumbing or electrical infrastructures, sprinkler systems, and other warehouse equipment. Figure 3 shows an example of an upright that does not respect the recommended clearance distance between pallet racking and a building column.




The minimum distance between pallet racking components

Multiplying the height of your pallet rack times 0.05 for down-aisle or 0.02 for cross-aisle directions will allow you to determine your storage rack clearances. For example, if your pallet rack is 240 inches tall (20 feet), the required clearance would be 12 inches (5% of 240) in the down-aisle direction and 4.8 inches (2% of 240) in the cross-aisle direction.

If you are certain that the topmost beam elevation will not be modified over time, the topmost beam height can be used instead of the rack's total height to determine the required distance between pallet racking.

Upright in close proximity to building
Figure 3. Rack upright too close to a structural building column

Minimum down-aisle and cross-aisle clearances

Figure 4. Minimum down-aisle and cross-aisle rack to wall clearances



Other recommended clearance guidelines related to warehouse racks and pallets

Aside from storage rack clearance and the distance with the building components, there are other clearances to keep in mind in your warehouse. Storing pallets within the recommended clearances will reduce damage to pallet rack components and ensure safe and efficient operation.

Minimum clearances for proper handling and protection of pallet racks are recommended. Required general clearances for single deep/double deep pallet racks are listed in Table 1 below.

Table 1: Recommended storage rack clearances for single-deep and double-deep pallet racks

# Clearance Guideline Recommended clearance space
1 Between two loads and between one load and the upright frame At least 3 in.
2 Between the load and the overhead beam At least 3 in. (and more for safe handling at top levels)
3 Pallet overhang Between 2 and 4 in. over the front and back beams
4 Between two loads in back-to-back cells At least 4 in.
5 Service aisle
  • One-way traffic: At least the truck length, including its load plus 6 in. on each side or according to the lift truck manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Two-way traffic: According to the lift truck manufacturer’s recommendations
6 Main aisle According to the lift truck manufacturer’s recommendations
7 Between load and an automatic sprinkler system At least 18 in.
8 Walkways
  • At least 24 in. wide or more
  • At least 43 in. wide for direct access to an exit walkway
  • Free space of 80 in. above the floor unless a danger sign is posted

As shown in the table above, pallets should have a minimum clearance of 3 inches between two pallets or one pallet and the upright frame to avoid damage or unintended impacts with rack components. Lift truck drivers should pay close attention and ensure adequate space on both pallet sides when placing pallets.


Clearances between rack columns and storage pallets

Figure 5 below shows a pallet stored directly against a column. Disregarding the recommended storage rack clearance can damage the pallet rack components.

Improper pallet storage
Figure 5. Improper storage clearance between pallet and rack column

Storage rack clearance: warehouse safety guidelines to remember

Pallet racks are efficient structures for storing large quantities of heavy merchandise, but standards must be followed to ensure they are used safely and remain free of damage. Following the minimum distance between racking and respecting clearance from building components is important.


Inspecting your warehouse racks regularly is the best way to stay on top of OSHA safety standards.

Rack inspection management tools like the Damotech Platform can help you view and track your rack inspections more efficiently to ensure warehouse safety. Its user-friendly dashboard provides visual representations of your warehouse layouts and allows you to track inspections in real-time – from anywhere! If you're interested in learning how you could improve the way you manage your rack inspections, watch the demo. If you prefer to let experts handle safety management within your warehouse, learn about our DAMO CARE program.




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Welcome to the world of Damotech, the first and largest rack safety solutions specialist in North America. With its lines of rack protection and repair products, Damotech strives to put an end to the endless cycle of upright replacement by focusing on warehouse safety and the permanent elimination of recurring rack damage. Through our engineering services, we will help create a safer working environment for you and your employees, bringing you true peace of mind while saving you money in the process.