Material Stacking – Forklift Safety Newsletter – July 2014

Material Stacking : How High Should I Stack?

Material Stacking 1

How high should I stack?

Forklift operators are often faced with the challenge of material stacking a wide variety of products. Each product has different characteristics that requires forklifts to stack using different techniques and to different heights. But one principle holds true. No matter what, material stacking fails if the bottom isn’t adequately supported. If the bottom of the stack is unsupported the whole stack is in danger of falling over. And every time a stack falls over we should investigate it as if a potential fatality had occurred. It is that serious.

To reduce the potential for falling stacks some facilities that handle a variety of products have developed stacking guidelines for each product. But while forklift stacking guidelines are helpful in training new operators it is ultimately the forklift operators responsibility to stack in a safe manner. Forklift operators must exercise independent judgment based on site specific conditions that may require stacking to lower heights.

Some things to consider are the:

  • Stability of the load
  • Stacking surface (slope, etc.)
  • State specific rules for material handling (e.g. OAR 437-002-0221)
  • Physical limitations of your forklift (including height of load backrest).
  • Skill of your operators
  • The photograph above illustrates another potential danger. Never stack or remove material in a manner that allows any material to have the potential of falling over the top of the mast and onto the overhead guard.


  • Analyze the stability of your stacks of material.
  • If you are having stacks fall over investigate the root cause and take steps to correct any problems.
  • Consider whether you need to develop stacking guidelines which can then be used as a training tool.
  • Ensure your forklift operators are held accountable for safe material stacking.

If you would like to share your experiences/photos of forklift incidents that can educate others on the principles of safe forklift operation please send them to:

We will not publish company or individuals names.

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Bruce Hulberg February 10, 2016
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