Guidelines for Stacking Shipping Containers
Why Is It Important to Learn the Proper Techniques for Stacking Shipping Containers?
Shipping and cargo containers make it possible for products to be transported throughout the world in a safe and cost-effective manner. They’re easy to lift, unload, and store and can be used to hold virtually any type of product that needs to be shipped. Regardless of what is included in your containers, the key to workplace safety and preventing employee injuries is proper stacking. If your business needs to stack cargo containers, it’s important that you and your workers understand how it’s done the right way.
Although OSHA has established clear guidelines for shipping container safety, many companies aren’t sure of the proper way to stack containers. ForkliftCertification.com (FLC), a recognized leader in online forklift certification training since 2002, offers 100% OSHA-approved forklift safety courses, which let you teach your workers how to correctly stack shipping containers
Are There OSHA Requirements for Stacking Containers for Shipping?
OSHA provides guidance in terms of how to stack shipping containers safely. It does, however, indicate that containers must be stacked in a way that they won’t slide or collapse. OSHA also states that containers must be stable and secure and won’t create a workplace hazard.
If containers are not stacked properly, there is a risk that they could fall onto a worker or equipment. Moreover, there is a chance that containers could collapse, which could endanger workers and cause financial losses.
When it comes to storing containers for shipping, be cautious. Otherwise, a business that ignores safety puts its staff and operations in danger.
Business owners are responsible for teaching workers how to safely stack containers for shipping. Without appropriate training, workers can inadvertently stack too many containers on top of one another. This can lead to workplace accidents, injuries, and fatalities. It can also result in OSHA violations.
By enrolling your workers in forklift certification training, you can provide your employees with valuable insights into container stacking best practices. The training teaches workers how to properly lift containers and stack them. It explains why workers need to account for the weight of containers and other factors. As a result, the training empowers your forklift operators to work cautiously. Best of all, it can help your forklift operators become productive and efficient, to the point where they have no trouble safely and securely stacking containers at warehouses and other worksites.
What to Expect from FLC’s Forklift Safety Training
Here’s some of what your workers need to know about stacking containers that they’ll learn through our training:
- How to safely stack shipping containers
- Shipping container stacking height limitations
- The maximum number of shipping containers in a stack
- Inspecting shipping containers before stacking
- Best container stacking methods
- And much more
To create a safer and OSHA-compliant workplace for your employees, enroll them in one of our forklift training programs today.
How Much Weight Can You Stack on a Shipping Container?
The amount of weight that can be stacked on a shipping container varies based on the amount of weight in each container, the number of containers stacked, and other factors.
A typical shipping container can hold many tons of cargo. On average, a 20-ft. container may weigh up to 5,000 lbs. and carry loads up to 60,000 lbs. Comparatively, a 40-ft. container may weigh up to 10,000 lbs. and carry loads up to 120,000 lbs.
Shipping containers have a maximum stack load that must be followed. The maximum stack load is listed on a container’s CSC plate or documentation provided with the container.
Can You Stack Open-Top Shipping Containers?
Open-top shipping containers must be closed during transport. These containers may be opened and loaded from the top and can be used to transport heavy loads. But, the top must be covered with a soft or hard roof for safe transport.
Can You Stack Containers Perpendicular?
Most containers are designed to be stacked horizontally or vertically. And, containers should always be stacked in the way they were designed. Furthermore, containers should not be stacked in a crisscross pattern.
Are Containers Bulletproof?
Shipping containers offer immense strength and durability. But, they are not necessarily bulletproof. Containers are not necessarily flameproof, either.
Do You Need to Use Container Stacking Pins?
Container stacking pins help you stack containers on top of another. Each pin includes a plate with a locking pin at either end. This locking pin slots into holes cut out of corner casts. As such, the locking pin can be engaged or disengaged, depending on whether you need to lock or unlock two containers.
Locking containers together can minimize the risk that they’ll move during transport. So, it typically pays to invest in container stacking pins.
How High Can Shipping Containers Be Stacked?
Shipping containers may be stacked up to nine high, depending on the maximum stack load of the lowest container. It is usually better to err on the side of caution, particularly when it comes to stacking containers that contain heavy loads. Thus, if you are unsure if a container can support multiple containers stacked on top of it, you may want to avoid stacking too many containers at once.
What Is the Best Container Stacking Method?
The best method for stacking cargo containers depends on whether containers are being transported on land or by ship. Regardless of how containers are being transported, OSHA guidelines must be followed.
The Basics of Shipping Container Stacking on Land
Once containers been offloaded from a ship, a worker must determine how many containers can be stacked atop each other, the maximum shipping container stacking height, and the proper container stacking methods.
Correct stacking techniques revolve around two key factors, which are stack height and stack stability. Here are the basics:
✓ Container Stack Height Regulations
On land, there are no height restrictions on stacking shipping containers, although reasonable caution should always be exercised. Your company’s safety supervisor should establish on-site stacking procedures, which will vary depending upon whether the containers will be stacked in warehouses, on open land or The maximum safe shipping container stacking height should take into account the type of lift equipment that’s used and where the containers will be stacked.
✓ Container Stack Stability
Stacking containers for an open sea voyage is more difficult than stacking them on stable Whether they’re stacked on board a ship or on land, the heights of the stacks present different safety hazards. For example, the containers’ bulk and weight create an even higher level of risk when bouncing around on the deck of a cargo vessel.
Regardless of the storage location, workers should always check with safety personnel or their supervisors before stacking shipping containers.
Best Practices for Stacking Containers on Land
Here are some recommended procedures for safely stacking shipping containers on land:
1. Inspect the Containers
Shipping containers should always be inspected for visible signs of cracks or dents before stacking. Check the sides, sub-flooring and corners posts for signs of damage or wear. Repair or replace any units that show signs of structural damage. Containers should also be checked inside and out for the presence of rust. On long ocean voyages, weak containers can result in damage to their contents and put the ship’s crew at risk of injury or death. Immediately repair or replace any units that show signs of structural damage.
2. Use Corner Posts When Stacking
Think of shipping containers as stackable giant Legos. For maximum stability, containers should be stacked corner post to corner post. A container’s four corner posts should align directly with the corner posts of the containers immediately above and below. When stacking containers of different sizes, such as stacking one 40-ft. container and two 20-ft. containers, the larger 40-ft. container should be placed on top, since placing the two smaller containers on top will increase the risk of the stack collapsing.
3. Use Lashing Rods to Prevent Sliding
Whether they’re on a truck or ship, containers should be secured with lashing rods to keep them from sliding while in transit. Adding twist-locks to the containers will increase stability, and will also reduce the chances of an accident.
4. Ensure Only Properly Trained and Certified Forklift Operators Stack Containers
Because there’s a certain degree of risk involved, handling a forklift requires skills acquired through training and experience. Forklifts are bulky and slow-moving pieces of equipment, but even at low speeds, an impact can cause serious damage to people, products, and equipment, including tip-over accidents that can result in fatalities. Using untrained and uncertified forklift workers is not only against the law, it can cost your business a lot of money if OSHA cites you for a violation. To protect your employees and your company, enroll your operators in FLC training today!
Best Practices for Stacking Cargo Containers on a Ship
Techniques for stacking shipping containers on the deck of a ship are different from those used for stacking them on land. Here are tips for stacking cargo containers on a ship:
1. Choose Appropriate On-Board Stowage
The two types of storage on a container ship are “fore and aft” and “athwartships.” Fore and aft stowage onboard the ship is lengthwise, while athwartships refers to horizontal stowage at right angles to the ship’s center. The correct type of stowage depends on the size of the ship and weather Fore and aft storage offers better protection against high winds, crashing waves, and rough seas.
2. Use Corner Posts to Stack Containers
When stacking like-sized containers on top of each other, align them corner post to corner post, since the posts and flooring are designed to bear the weight of both the container itself and those above it. Corner posts should extend slightly lower than the bottom of the container and a bit higher than its top. When stacking different size containers, the smaller containers should always be on the bottom. By doing this, all four corner posts of the larger top container rest on corner posts of the containers immediately beneath them.
3. Secure the Containers
Traveling on the sea is much rougher than traveling across land, which makes it even more important that the containers are secured against slipping and sliding. Cell guides with vertical guide rails should be used to keep the containers in place. This also helps ease the pressure from the top containers on those at the bottom of the stack. Lashing rods and twist-locks are used to secure the container stacks to the vessel’s deck, which also helps prevent slippage.
4. Choose the Right Lift Equipment
Forklifts are frequently used to stack containers on ships, although their use depends on the type of forklift and the height of the stack. Container forklifts are designed to handle both 20-ft. and 40-ft. containers. Some types of forklifts may not be able to handle the job, in which case cranes might be needed. The capabilities of a particular type of forklift should be confirmed before it’s used to stack containers.
Do You Need to Use a Forklift to Stack Containers?
A forklift is a great option to securely stack containers. Whereas a truck that sets containers down cannot be used to stack them, a forklift can be used to pick up containers and stack them one on top of another.
Before using a forklift to stack containers, it is important to do the following:
- Verify the forks can extend the length of the container and ensure the container safely remains in place when it is carried upward or downward.
- Ensure that the forks will not poke through the floor of the container.
- Confirm that the forklift can handle the container’s weight.
Prior to using a forklift to stack containers, it is important to plan ahead for the project. A forklift inspection can be performed to ensure the lift is functioning properly and the operator knows exactly what to do. If any issues are found during the inspection, they should be addressed before a lift is used to move the containers.
In the event that a forklift cannot handle stacking containers, a crane may provide a viable alternative. Generally, a crane and material handling company can offer assistance to ensure you can properly stack your containers.
Do Your Employees Need Forklift Certification to Stack Containers?
OSHA requires forklift operators to undergo training before they can legally use a lift. As part of this training, lift operators will learn how to safely move containers and other large objects. If you intend to stack containers with a forklift, it is crucial to provide training to any worker who will perform this task. The training ensures your workers can learn about all aspects of forklift safety. Plus, it enables your company to comply with OSHA guidelines and avoid costly fines and penalties.
Prioritize Container Stacking Safety
There are several factors that determine the safest methods for stacking shipping containers, the most important of which is using only forklift operators who have been properly trained and certified and understand how to minimize the risk of workplace accidents. FLC has the forklift training your business needs to comply with OSHA guidelines.
Regardless of where, when, or how you use forklifts, FLC covers all the key elements of forklift safety practices in the workplace, all in an easy-to-understand format. Please contact us online or call us today at (888) 278-8896 to enroll your workers in one of our forklift training programs. That way, you can ensure that your workers can become OSHA-approved forklift operators right away.