In most municipalities you’ll need a building permit to install and begin using a pallet racking system. Some municipalities only require a permit under certain circumstances, such as if the top of the storage will exceed 12 feet or if the Fire Code requires the area to be sprinklered. Depending on your jurisdiction, the process and requirements to obtain that permit for your racking can differ. The ones outlined below are common to most municipalities, but you should always start by checking for your local requirements with the necessary authorities.
Typically, Building Permit Applications are submitted to your local municipal office. If the application is complete and the design is in accordance with code, it will usually be approved within two to four weeks. If the application is incomplete, inaccurate, or if the design does not meet code you will need to rectify the issues and resubmit the permit application. Your resubmission application does not have priority, so it may go to the bottom of the pile and approval could take another two to four weeks.
It is against regulations to install or occupy the racking system until the permit is approved. If you proceed with installing the system without proper approval, you could face a stop work order and fines. As such, it is very important to provide accurate and complete documentation the first time. The earlier you start, the better, and be sure to consider the permit application and approval process in your project timeline.
Steps to Obtain a Building Permit for your Pallet Racking System
The process starts with finalizing the racking plan view, elevations, load requirements, and corresponding drawings. The drawings must include all necessary details and be drawn to the scale specified by the municipality. The layout and design are critical as they will determine everything required for installation. If the layout or design changes after the permit is submitted, then the drawings and engineering will need to be updated and a revised permit must be submitted.
You need drawings stamped by an engineer verifying that the structural design of the racking system is adequate. Once the layout and elevations have been determined, the system and all components must be reviewed by an engineer to ensure it is structurally capable of supporting the loads. Site conditions such as seismic zoning, geotechnical information, and other factors must be taken into consideration. When the engineer is satisfied with the design, they will stamp the drawings.
You require an engineer stamped letter indicating that the foundation (typically a concrete slab) is adequate for the loads being generated. The structural design and layout of the racking system along with the various system loads will determine the forces being transferred to the slab.
An engineer will review the slab’s structural design to determine its load bearing capacity. In newer buildings the slab design is often available from the builder or landlord. If it is not available, core samples can be obtained and analyzed in a lab to give the engineer the necessary information.
Once the slab’s design is known the engineer will determine its load bearing capacity and assess if it is adequate for the intended use. If the slab proves to be inadequate, the engineer has a couple of options:
- Reduce the allowable loads of the racking system, i.e. downgrade the racking system capacity or
- Change the design / layout of the racking system to reduce the load being transferred to the slab.
Once the engineer is satisfied that the design and foundation are adequate, he will provide a stamped letter of approval.
You will need an engineer stamped letter, indicating that the fire suppression system is adequate. The fire suppression system must meet NFPA 13 code which means that a fire engineer will need to review the following:
- The racking system layout and elevations
- The product classification, packaging, and characteristics of the materials being stored
- The specifications of the existing fire protection system
If the fire suppression system proves to be inadequate, the engineer has a couple of options to remedy the situation:
- Reduce the height of the racking system
- Recommend changes to the packaging or the materials
- Upgrade the suppression system to meet code
Once the engineer is satisfied that the design and foundation are adequate, you will receive a stamped letter of approval.
Ensure that the racking layout does not conflict with the Alberta Fire Code (or the fire code in your jurisdiction), particularly Section 3, which deals with storage systems. Most commonly you must ensure that:
- There are adequate aisle ways within the floor plan
- Travel distances to exits do not exceed 45 meters in a sprinklered building
- Fire hoses and cabinets are accessible and unencumbered
- Exits are properly identified and are not blocked or impeded
- Emergency lighting is provided at all exits
Many municipalities require that the site has been reviewed to determine that asbestos is not present as part of any Building Permit Application.
Once you have all the necessary drawings and documents you can complete the permit application and take it to City Hall. In most cases, applications must be submitted in person, however some municipalities are beginning to provide online applications.
Your permit must be approved before the racking system can be erected or utilized. The municipality may accept your submission, but this does not constitute approval. The municipal engineers need to review the drawings and documents submitted before they will approve your application. If any part of your application is deficient, those deficiencies will need to be addressed and the application resubmitted.
If your building is under construction or renovation, most General Contractors will not allow the erection of racking without an approved permit in place. If you have control of your building and choose to install the racking prior to receiving an approved permit, you may be subject to a stop work or stop use order and fines.
This is often a big oversight for companies who have not included the approval process into their construction or relocation timeline.
After your permit has been approved, and the racking system has been installed, an engineer will need to inspect the installation. It is their responsibility to ensure that the system was installed:
- exactly as detailed on the stamped plan and elevation drawings in the approved permit, and
- correctly in accordance with the building code and the manufacturer recommendations.
If everything is to the engineer’s approval, they will issue a Schedule C2.
Prior to loading the racking, call the City to schedule a site inspection to sign off on your permit. Do not make changes to your system prior to the City Inspector’s approval of your permit. If the inspector finds that changes have been made, he will require updated drawings and engineering before approving your permit. Have your Schedule C2, and all other drawings and documentation available for the City Inspector.
Is all this Permit stuff really necessary?
Although it’s tempting to avoid the hassles of getting a Building Permit for your pallet racking system, let’s take a look at what can happen if you install a system without one.
The building permit process is in place to ensure that the applicable Building and Fire Codes are adhered to in the design, engineering, and installation of the system. In jurisdictions where a permit is not required, the business owner is still ultimately responsible to ensure that the facility and the structures within the facility meet code.
Racking systems support thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of pounds of material, and need to withstand the forces generated while in use. Building Codes deal with how the racking system needs to be engineered, manufactured, and installed to ensure they are adequate and safe.
Fire Codes detail how to properly and safely store materials of various classifications and also provide design rules so that people can escape in case of a fire and fire fighters can effectively access and safely control a potential fire. The Fire Codes also determine the type and size of fire suppression equipment required in the facility.
The suitability and condition of the components used, together with the design, engineering, and installation of the system, are what ensures the overall safety of the system. A defect or failure in any of these areas can result in a rack collapse, an unmanageable fire, inadequate emergency egress for workers, or dangerous conditions for fire fighters. Any of these conditions present potentially fatal results.
Legal Considerations and Employer Responsbilities
Employer responsibilities for workplace safety and pallet racking storage structures are governed by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation, and Code; as well as the Criminal Code. Organizations are required to adhere to various building codes and municipal regulations with respect to the assembly and maintenance of pallet racking storage structures.
Please also keep in mind that employers and workers are required to assess a work site and identify existing or potential hazards before work begins – such as improper stacking, storing and /or securing goods on pallets and storage racks. Workers responsible for stacking, storing, or securing goods, materials, and equipment on pallets and storage racks must be trained in the safe methods for doing so.
Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada (formerly Bill C-45) states the following:
“217.1 Everyone who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”
As an owner, employer, or supervisor, you’re responsible to ensure a safe work environment for your employees. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges.
During routine inspections, or in the event of an accident involving your racking system, inspectors can request to see the engineering behind the system and your permit approvals. If you don’t have them, they have the right to shut down your operation until you are able to provide them.
Business Licence Approval
If you are moving, adding a location, expanding your existing operation, or even purchasing an existing business then you must apply for a Business Licence for that facility. An inspection of your facility is a mandatory requirement of the approval process for obtaining a business licence, and if you have a racking system, the inspector will want to see your approved building permit that includes the racking system before your facility will pass the inspection.
If you do not have a building permit for your racking system when the inspector asks for it, you may be in a very bad situation. You could be subject to fines and your business operations could be shut down while you go through the details in the steps above.
During the process of obtaining the building permit, you will have to correct any deficiencies noted by the inspector. For example, remove any damaged components, provide adequate flu spacing, and properly align, plumb, and anchor frames, etc.
In the worst case scenario, if for some reason you are not able to obtain the necessary engineering for your system, or if the fire suppression system, or the floor slab is found to be inadequate, then you may have no choice but to upgrade or replace those items.
Permitting is key in obtaining coverage from insurance companies. Insurance companies will not cover claims on facilities that are not properly licensed or don’t meet code. If you proceed without a permit, your insurance could be denied or cancelled.
Building and Fire Code
Some municipalities don’t require a building permit for pallet racking systems. However, in all cases the Building Code and the Fire Code for the province still exists and will apply. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their facility and all structures within it meet code. The municipal permit process exists to ensure code is met.
At cam|industrial, we collaborate with our customers to design and engineer effective and efficient pallet racking solutions that comply with all the necessary local codes. Our Turnkey Solutions include the management of the permit process to mitigate your risks and ensure the project timelines are met. Call us for a consultation on your project!
Make it a smart move
Even minor issues with your permit can impact your project timeline and budget.
cam|industrial has permit experts to help prepare and submit your building permit application successfully. We can manage the whole process for you, or just help you with what you need. Email us today to start the conversation.
Looking for more information?
Read our other Smart Move Articles:
- Moving Your Pallet Racking? You’ll Need a Permit
- Before Signing a Warehouse Lease, Consider These Critical Factors