Our Guide to Stacking Boxes on a Pallet Safely

Warehouses, storage sites and distribution centres the world over use boxes and pallets – they are an integral part of the way we move and store goods. Poor stacking, however, can cause expensive damage to your goods and even injury to personnel in the event of a collapse or an overbalance – so take this opportunity to refresh yourself on stacking best practice. 

Use purpose-built boxes 

Rather than using cardboard boxes, use a heavy-duty plastic Euro container that is built for use with pallets. You can usually find these in a range of sizes – so a quarter of a standard Euro pallet, a half or a full size – which makes stacking a breeze. Another good benefit of these types of boxes is that they are a lot more rigid than cardboard, so you can stack heavier items throughout your load without worrying about items at the bottom being crushed and damaged. 

Stack evenly 

Obviously, it’s super-easy to stack your boxes on a pallet if they are all the same size. Each level will naturally have the same number of boxes, evenly spread out – but when it comes to stacking pallets with boxes of different sizes it is important to be a bit more careful. Leaving even a small gap near the base of your stack can cause your load to tip over, so make sure that, if there are gaps, they are kept towards the centre of the level, rather than at an edge – and definitely not at a corner. 

Do not go too high 

If your goods are light, it can be tempting to stack your pallet high. This can be unsafe, however, as the taller the stack the less stable it will be towards the top – if the top starts to wobble it can cause a ripple effect that causes the whole stack to fall. Make sure you keep it to a manageable height – the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) suggests that the height should not exceed the longest dimension of your pallet. If you are using a cage, plastic wrapping or a strapping system you can exceed this restriction, but do so with care. 

It’s also worth noting here, that if you are using an external logistics or delivery company they may have their own limits on the height of a loaded pallet that they will accept; either for health and safety reasons or for the simple fact that they cannot fit higher loads onto their vehicles. 

Think about weight 

It’s not just about protecting your load from crushing – if you do put heavier items at the top of a high stack, you need to think about how they will be placed and removed. Are you causing unnecessary manual handling risks? It is much safer to load or unload a heavy crate or box from waist height or below, rather than trying to reach up to do so – along with strains and musculoskeletal issues, you also increase the risk of dropped stock and the operator overbalancing.

Brett Sartorial

Brett is a business journalist with a focus on corporate strategy and leadership. With over 15 years of experience covering the corporate world, Brett has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, analytical and insightful journalist. He has a deep understanding of the business strategies and leadership principles that drive the world's most successful companies, and is able to explain them in a clear and compelling way. Throughout his career, Brett has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders and has covered major business events such as the World Economic Forum and the Davos. He is also a regular contributor to leading business publications and has won several awards for his work.