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Is it possible to attach racks to buildings or other structures?

Where is it stated that you cannot attach the racks to the building?

A pallet rack is an indispensable component in the storage and warehousing industry, providing an efficient means of organizing and storing goods on pallets. When considering installing a pallet rack system, paramount importance should be placed on safety and structural integrity to prevent potential accidents and ensure the longevity of the storage solution. The principle governing pallet rack installation is that it must be self-supporting. It should bear the entire load of the stored goods and its own weight independently, without relying on external structures for support. By adhering to the concept of self-support, the pallet rack system remains stable. It significantly reduces the risk of collapses or structural failures, which could otherwise lead to disastrous outcomes. 

While self-supporting rack designs are preferred, specific circumstances may require racks to be attached to building structures. Extreme caution must be exercised in such instances; strict adherence to proper protocols is paramount. The safety and stability of the entire system hinge on the accurate execution of a rack attachment process, and the implications of any oversight could lead to a failure in the system’s integrity, potentially culminating in a rack attach accident. When contemplating a rack attached to a building structure, the first step is determining whether the building was explicitly designed to accommodate such an installation. It is vital to consult with a qualified structural engineer who can thoroughly assess the building’s original design and ascertain if it can safely bear the additional load imposed by the rack system. This step alone can significantly reduce the risks associated with a rack attachment, providing a solid foundation for a secure and reliable installation. 

Moreover, before proceeding with any rack attachments, a comprehensive engineering analysis should be conducted to evaluate the forces that will be transferred to the building during the attachment process. The goal is to ensure that the building’s load-carrying capacity is not exceeded and that all factors, including the weight of the pallets, goods, and rack components, along with any dynamic forces that might come into play during loading and unloading, are carefully considered. 

Adherence to relevant building codes is essential to guarantee further the safety and compliance of the pallet rack installation. In Canada, the National Building Code outlines specific requirements and standards for rack design and installation. At the same time, the American code, including ANSI MH16.1, offers similar guidelines to ensure the integrity of the system, regardless of the country where the rack attach is taking place. Both codes meticulously address critical factors such as the materials used in rack construction, maximum load capacities, allowable deflection or bending of rack components, and suitable anchoring methods. Additionally, safety considerations, such as installing rack guards and end-of-aisle protectors, further enhance the system’s stability, providing an extra layer of protection against any potential rack-attach accidents. 


Excerpt from CAN/CSA A344.2-05 Standard for the design and construction of steel storage racks: 

12 Interaction with buildings 

12.1 The connection of storage racks to buildings or other structures other than the floor is not recommended. Where such connections are made, the engineer(s) responsible for the rack, buildings, or other structures shall provide for their interaction. 

12.2 Where connections are not made, storage racks shall be located so that the building and racks do not collide due to the design seismic forces. 

12.3 Storage racks located at levels above the grade elevation shall be designed to resist design seismic forces that consider the responses of the building and storage racks as a combined structure to seismic ground motion. 


In conclusion, safety must always be the paramount concern, whether it’s a self-supporting pallet rack or a carefully planned rack attach scenario. Adhering to strict engineering guidelines, consulting with qualified professionals, and complying with national building codes are all indispensable steps to ensure a secure, stable, and reliable pallet rack system. By proactively prioritizing safety and adherence to regulations, warehouse operators can safeguard their employees, inventory, and the overall integrity of their storage solution, thus preventing any potential rack-attach accidents. 


Note: Storage racks and buildings have inherently different dynamic behaviors. Accordingly, any interconnection between the two will invariably lead to force transfers. In seismic events, the transfer is almost invariably from the high drift rack to the low drift building. Given their enormous mass disparity, such connections require careful design or provisions to defeat any force transfer by maintaining a proper separation. 


To read more on the subject: Minimum Distances Between Pallet Racking and Building Structures