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The Safest Way to Stack Shipping Containers

How many shipping containers can you stack?
Cargo and shipping containers are used to transport various materials across land and sea, and even build budget-friendly homes. No matter how they are being used, the key to using shipping containers is to stack them safely and properly.  If it’s your job to stack containers, it is your responsibility to know how to stack them safely and properly to minimize accidents.

Let’s take a look at stacking shipping containers, including how many shipping containers you can stack, optimal inspection methods, stacking best practices, and more.

Before Stacking the Containers:

Inspect the Quality of the Containers

Before you begin stacking the containers, inspect every area of the containers to ensure they are structurally sound and there are no visible cracks or dents. Check the sides, sub-flooring, and corners posts to make sure they are not damaged or worn.

Stack According to the Corner Posts

Containers should be stacked corner post to corner post to be the most secure. The four corner posts of a container should match up with the corner posts of the container above and below it. If you are stacking containers of different sizes, the larger container should be stacked on top of the smaller containers to provide stability with the four corner posts. If the order was reversed, the top smaller containers are at risk of falling through.

Lock Containers Together to Prevent Sliding

Containers are lashed together with lashing rods when they are placed on a truck or ship to prevent them from sliding around. You can add twist-locks to the containers to add more stability and further prevent any accidents from occurring.

Stacking the Containers:

Use Forklifts Operated and Inspected by Trained Workers

As such an essential tool for picking up, lifting, and setting down containers, forklifts should only be operated by trained and certified operators to prevent accidents and perform inspections. Trained forklift operators inspect the forklift forks, the forklift pockets on the bottom of the containers, and the environment to make sure there are no hazards that can cause unsafe situations.

Know the Correct On-Board Storage and Stacking for the Vessel

There are two types of storage and stacking methods; fore and aft, and athwartship. Fore and aft is lengthwise stowage, and athwartship is horizontal stowage. Containers traveling by sea can be stored either way, and careful consideration is needed to decide which positioning is best to handle the stresses of transport. For sea travel, fore and aft is most often used to provide protection against the wind, crashing waves, turbulence, and accelerated force.

Secure the Containers Against Slipping and Toppling

Weather conditions and other factors can only be predicted to an extent when traveling with containers, and all containers must be secured adequately to prevent slipping and sliding. Cell guides with vertical guide rails can help keep containers in place and ease the pressure of top stacked containers. Lashing rods and twist-locks are also used to secure the containers to the vessel and the container underneath to prevent slippage.

Stacking Shipping Containers on Land – How Many Shipping Containers Can You Stack?

You may be required to stack shipping containers away from the vessel. How many shipping containers can you stack? In this case, it all depends on your own facility’s stacking requirements. Always consult with your safety supervisor or on-site OSHA resource. Stacking shipping containers on land differs from typical vessel storage in two distinct ways:

  • Height requirements. While a shipping area on a seafaring vessel has certain height limitations, stacking shipping containers on land lack a prohibitive requirement. Check with your site’s specific policies and procedures for stacking shipping containers in areas outside the boat or vessel, including warehouse shelves, open land, and elsewhere.
  • Stability. An open sea voyage has its own safety guidelines for securing shipping containers and other cargo. Stacking shipping containers on land is obviously a much more stable situation. That doesn’t mean you have the ability to stack shipping cargo and containers as high as possible. Given their tremendous weight and oversized dimensions, shipping containers stacked high pose their own set of safety hazards, even if they’re not moving around on a ship.

So how many shipping containers can you stack on land? There’s no clear-cut answer. It varies, depending on a host of factors – not least of which are your own shipping company’s guidelines. Again, we recommend that you double-check with your site’s safety personnel before stacking shipping containers.

There are many factors that determine the safest way to stack a container on a ship, truck, or train. The first thing to do to ensure workers can make the correct decisions to minimize the risk of accidents and damage is to make sure they are trained and certified to handle containers and operate forklifts.

FLC has all the forklift training you and your company need to become OSHA compliant. From managing shipping containers to handling everyday cargo at warehouses, we’ll explain important safety practices in an easy-to-learn format. Visit our course pricing page to get started today.

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