SEMA Press Releases
On the Rack
By Mike Vaughan, Approved Racking Inspector (SARI) for the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA)
Whether you are general builders’ merchant or a specialist outlet selling plumbing and timber products, your business will need to store and display products so that they can be seen, are accessible and protected from damage. You’ll know all about awkward storage problems because the materials themselves come in all shapes and sizes; many are heavy or bulky or long in shape or are banded/strapped to keep the packs intact. Then there’s outside where yards can be very congested, uneven and where un-galvanised racking may have corroded. You also need to satisfy legal requirements to provide a safe place of work and to ensure that work equipment is suitable, as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER).
I’m sorry to say that as a SEMA inspector, my observations indicate that too many businesses including merchants (up to 90% perhaps) are totally unaware of the potential consequences of poor maintenance of storage products and other malpractices. Take note that a year on, the impact of new tougher 2017 Health & Safety legislation and sentencing guidelines reveals that builders’ merchants, especially those merchants turning over between £10m and £50m a year are at increasing risk of fines due to breaching of the Health and Safety at Work Act. Examples include a leading builders’ merchant which was fined £2 million after a customer was run over and killed by a company vehicle in the yard of its store, while another merchant was fined £120,000 after a lorry driver’s fingers were amputated during a loading incident.
Ten Cardinal Storage Sins
The ten cardinal storage sins which I see repeatedly are:
- Painted racking being used outside, only galvanised avoids deterioration
- Extremely uneven yards congested by both traffic and goods
- Racks not levelled properly with excessive levelling plates fitted under the footplates rendering a standard floor fixing ineffective
- Long, heavy, awkward good or non-standard pallets stored incorrectly, i.e. not as per the storage design
- Adjustable Pallet Racking (APR) being used instead of cantilever racking
- Severe overhang of goods and unevenly distributed loads
- Un-banded bricks/slabs etc., part picked then loose stacked/put back into rack (major risk of falls from height)
- Heavy, i.e. larger than average MHE (FLT) being used to service/operate storage equipment
- Racking installation adjustments (beams) undertaken without approval/capability of specific/design
- No inspection and maintenance regime in place
So, who oversees storage safety issues at your organisation nd what do they need to do to demonstrate best practice? Firstly, the management team needs to appoint a Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS) who should take responsibilty for maintaining safe operation of your storage systems, maintain rack inspection and maintenance records. They need to have the skills necessary to analyse damage data, identify trends, propose/implement action and, most importantly, have the authority to implement action. Secondly, seriously consider implementing a risk assessment and method statement for racking and storage inspeciton into company procedure.
Help is at hand as in 2017, SEMA refreshed its rigorous approach to rack inspections as rack collapses can and do cause severe injury and even fatality. The golden rule is that inspection is not a substitute for deficient, defective or absent specification, design, installation, training, operation or maintenance. Other than its assistance in aiding legal compliance, a rack inspection will serve to check the condition of equipment for health and safety reasons as part of a regular inspection regime. Following on from this further work may be needed to quantify any necessary repair works. It will also verify the equipment has been installed and maintained to a particular specification or standard.
The PRSS needs to establish three levels of inspection which are usually referred to as immediate (daily), regular (weekly) and the expert (usually annual) inspection which is where the SARI’s role comes into play.
SARIs conduct two very different types of inspection. A damage only inspection provides a list of damaged items and their location. It’s OK as far as it goes whereas a full SARI report, offers far more. It will check immediate and regular scrutiny is being carried out; identify/check rack configuration, type and manufacturer and a general identification of components including a check of the accuracy of load notices. It gives classified results and confirms that damaged components are being replaced. It also will identify repetitive damage and propose future solutions/modifications. Vitally, it will notify of any Red Risks present as classified by SEMA’s unique traffic light risk categories which have been established for almost 40 years now and adopted largely worldwide.
In preparation for a SARI inspection, the following are useful tips, e.g. it’s a visual inspection from ground level so WAH (work at height) shouldn’t be necessary and cluttered aisles make any sort of inspection difficult! I use simple measuring equipment, work in a logical, systematic way, carry out the inspection at a slow walking pace and record the results.
Commercially speaking, I say that small defects left unrepaired, may lead to higher costs or perhaps serious accidents over time. All staff need to accept a collective responsibility for taking due care. Keep it simple but reporting promptly should follow documented procedures and actions recorded.
A pallet racking system looks robust, but it’s basically a skeleton (usually designed by a structural engineer) and its structural rigidity is calculated to meet precise design criteria under specified conditions. To bear heavy loads, it must have strong joints and be securely anchored to a solid floor. Once loaded, the rack or its components should not distort. On a daily basis, a rack is often subjected to harsh treatment e.g. impacts, forces, poor placement of pallets and often minor collisions inflicted by Fork Lift Trucks so it’s hardly surprising that the once fit-for-purpose, carefully designed, heavy duty rack does not remain indefinitely in factory or as-built condition. It can begin to distort out of shape which will influence its robustness, components may come loose, and the rack can fall into disrepair, compromising safety.
The regular inspection should also check to make sure that loading is correct by checking that the loads are within the limits given on the Load Notice and that it specifically applies to the rack that its fixed to, often a problem if racking is moved or altered. See video at https://www.sema.org.uk/load-notices/load-notices-video-short-version
Rack Inspection Training
For ‘Regular’ inspection, the SEMA Rack Safety Awareness course covers; responsibilities, what to measure, explanation of the load notice, inspection equipment, practical examples of damage categorisation and damage prevention. For ‘Expert’ inspection, the SEMA Approved Rack Inspection (SARI) course is the recognised training module.
SEMA recommends that a risk assessment and method statement for inspection is incorporated into company procedure. SEMA’s Code of Practice for the Use of Static Racking (free download available from the SEMA web site) and the new SEMA Guide to the Conduct of Racking and Shelving Inspections both have useful advice.