Safety support

18 October 2023

Racking is a crucial piece of warehouse equipment that is not always given priority in terms of workplace safety.The Storage Equipment Manufacturer Association (SEMA) reminds us how we can implement safety in our racking.

When addressing safety in the warehouse, there is one key area that cannot be ignored - your racking. It’s a crucial piece of equipment that is not always given priority in terms of workplace safety. After all, it’s very easy to leave it to the ‘experts’ and trust they are doing the best job. 

But, did you know, as the owner of the storage equipment, you are responsible for ensuring quality and high safety standards in your racking? When you also consider that the storage equipment industry is largely unregulated, making it difficult to know which pallet racking supplier are reputable. Suddenly the task of implementing safety in your racking can seem huge.

Joining the safety dots

With over 50 years of implementing and advising on best practice in the industry, SEMA is here to help warehouse owners improve safety in their racking. Through the work of SEMA members and our safety guidance, we aim to achieve the highest standards of quality for the industry. 

When approaching safety in racking, we always advise taking a 360O approach that addresses key points throughout the equipment’s lifecycles. For best results don’t look at any stage in isolation, and instead follow a joined-up approach from beginning to end. After all, cutting corners in one area can impact heavily on safety and costs further down the line.

Stage 1: Taking responsibility

It’s at this point, we should remind everyone that most storage equipment installation projects are classed as construction projects. That means they will fall under CDM 2015 regulations and, as the client, you need to ensure the project meets all relevant construction health and safety requirements. You are solely responsible for making sure that the people working on your racking project are ‘competent’ and working safely. If anything goes wrong, you are responsible for the outcome. 

To help clients navigate the process and ensure they meet their requirements, it is advisable to follow HSE guidance. Guidance can be found in HSG 76 Warehousing and Storage: A Guide to Health and Safety. Although it is not a legal requirement to follow the advice, adhering to the guidance is usually enough to comply with legislation.

They advise that ‘all racking systems should be of good mechanical construction, of sound adequate strength and installed and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.’ 

Stage 2: Design and manufacture

The type of racking and the design of your storage equipment plays a significant role in determining the success of your business. Get the design right and it will maximise the amount of stock you can store, improve the flow of goods, speed up picking rates and ultimately increase profitability. 

However, it’s all too easy to focus on these aspects and not give adequate consideration to whether the storage has been designed to maximise the safety of your workforce. Does the storage equipment work for your picking methods? Are there safe working zones that protect your employees? Are there protective devices in place that work for your warehouse?

You should also ensure that the design and manufacture of the racking meets industry design codes. These are critical in ensuring the design meets structural analysis requirements and that the right types of loads and safety factors have been considered. In the UK it is acceptable for designs to meet either SEMA Design Codes or the European Code EN 15512. 

Make sure you work with a supplier who understands all these areas. 

Stage 3: Installation

It’s very easy to forget the next stage – installation. After all, the design and manufacture of your racking could have been months in the planning. Ideally, you want to get it in place as quickly as possible and your suppliers have recommended an installation crew who are ready to go.

Don’t let safety standards slip at this point. HSG76 recommends that ‘racking should only be installed by competent people in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions’. Sounds simple enough but how do you know if your installer is appropriately qualified and working safely? When you consider that even the smallest deviation from design intent can affect the integrity of the system, the need for a qualified person to install your racking becomes crucial. 

That is why SEMA established their training program SEIRS, which instructs installers on correct installation methods that follow SEMA standards. Following feedback from industry experts and to increase standards further, last year we launched a new Diploma training programme. The new course challenges installers further. It provides a clear benchmark that any SEIRS-qualified installer has been assessed to the highest industry standards. 

So, before you let anybody install your racking, check for their SEIRS card.

Stage 4: Racking in use

Once in place, it’s time to make sure everyone is aware of the racking and importantly how to use it. Of course, with a structure as large as your storage equipment, it’s pretty hard to ignore. But, knowing the correct and safe way to work around your racking can pay dividends by maximising the lifespan of your equipment and boosting your return on investment (ROI). 

After all, do your employees know how to safely load the bays? Do they know the maximum weight it can hold? Will they recognise if the racking is damaged?

Send your workforce on a training programme like our Rack Safety Awareness course which provides them with the knowledge and skills they need to do their job safely. It will instruct on how to understand Load Notices – a key safety sign that advises on correct weight loading for your racking. It will also provide them with the skills and knowledge to understand what damage on racking looks like and how to report any issues.

Stage 5: Racking care

Did you know that under PUWER (Provisions and Use of Work Regulations 1998), your racking is classed as work equipment and needs to be maintained correctly? The HSG76 recommends appointing a Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS). This will be a member of your staff who has been trained on how to perform weekly inspections. Their checks will ensure everyone is using the equipment correctly, record damage levels and advise where repair work may be required.

Their weekly inspection should be followed up with an Expert Inspection conducted by a professionally qualified racking inspector. As a benchmark for the industry, SEMA operates a nationwide network of SEMA Approved Racking Inspectors (SARI). 

These highly qualified individuals are trained and assessed to enhance their competency in practical and cognitive skill sets. Their detailed inspection report will cover the suitability and compatibility of your equipment. Essentially for racking owners, their report will classify any damage using a traffic light system which indicates what remedial actions are required and over what timescales.

Stage 6: After care

To complete the circle, racking owners need to consider the aftercare of their racking. After all, what happens if the inspection identifies that you need repair work on your racking? Maybe you want to expand your storage and dovetail in additional racking.

The first thing you need to be aware of is the validity of your racking warranty. Any unauthorised work could dramatically impact the integrity of the structure and will render the warranty null and void. 

There are also some repair areas, such as repairs involving welding, that we consider dangerous and would never recommend. Getting someone who knows the design is crucial. The obvious solution would be to get the manufacturer out to fix the problem, but this is not always feasible.

The advantage of working with SEMA Members is the protection it provides your business. If your equipment was supplied by a SEMA manufacturer, our SDCs and SAICS are qualified to conduct racking repairs on their behalf. They work closely with manufacturing members and can access their documentation to conduct repair work using SEIRS installers.

If you would like to take a 360O approach to racking quality and safety, get in touch with one of our SEMA members. Their work extends over the lifetime of your racking from the design, supply and installation right through to inspections and maintenance.

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