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Storage under scrutiny

11 November 2020

Jaap Vos, president of SEMA outlines some of the key considerations when undertaking storage equipment maintenance inspections.

The UK wide lockdown throughout a lot of 2020 has resulted in a significant change for the warehouse industry. With the high street effectively closed for large parts of the year many consumers moved their shopping habits from the high street towards buying online. Statistics show that sales in ecommerce have grown exponentially with online sales in April up by more than 50% compared to last year. 

As the surge in ecommerce continues this has seen a significant demand for new and additional warehousing. When it comes to designing, installing and maintaining your storage system, help is at hand from SEMA, or the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association which is the British trade association of the storage equipment industry. 

Safe storage follows a cyclical approach; safe manufacture offering full traceability of product, safe design to meet SEMA’s strict codes of practice, safe installation by SEIRS qualified labour. Once in-situ, the installation will need to be maintained properly to keep your storage racking in good working order. 

SEMA’s Rack Inspection Regime

Rack collapses in the warehouse can and do happen, potentially causing severe injuries and even fatalities. SEMA recommend a rigorous approach to rack inspections to perform three essential functions. Firstly, to provide a safe place of work by making sure equipment meets PUWER and Health and Safety at Work Act regulations. Secondly to check the condition of equipment and identify corrective work that might be required. Lastly a rack inspection will verify that the equipment has been installed correctly.

SEMA Approved Inspectors are highly qualified professionals. Their day job is to complete the SEMA circle of quality by undertaking racking and storage systems inspections at end-users’ premises. They conduct racking and storage condition assessments, reports and recommendations, so that all places of employment can operate as safe environments.

Based on daily observations, SEMA inspectors indicate that nowadays, businesses are much more aware of the potential problems with respect to storage equipment although, undoubtedly, there are still plenty that are not.

How to manage rack safety

The end-user needs to appoint a Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS) who is suitably qualified and experienced. Their job is to take responsibility for the safe operation of storage systems, maintain rack inspections and keep maintenance records. They should implement a risk assessment and method statement for racking and storage inspection.  

Remember! Inspection is not a substitute for deficient, defective or absent specification, design, installation, training, operation or maintenance. It is important to realise that inspection alone does not solve the problem and it is only the first link in the chain. If an inspection identifies issues the affected areas should be taken out of use so that the necessary maintenance action can be undertaken to solve the issue which has been identified by the inspection.

SEMA’s in-situ safety regime

SEMA adopts an “onion skin approach to rack inspection” consists of three layers with three overlapping levels of inspection namely; immediate (used to be called the daily) inspection, the regular (used to be called the weekly) inspection and the “expert” (annual) inspection which needs to be carried out by SEMA Approved Inspector or a trained specialist internally or externally.

• Immediate Inspections
Immediate inspections require the reporting of all damage and areas of concern to the PRRS. Warehouse staff are often in the best position to see if a racking has been damaged and they should be encouraged to report damage immediately. Reporting should follow a documented procedure with records kept on the action taken to address the issues. 

• Regular Inspections

The PRRS should ensure regular inspections are undertaken and documented by a suitably trained individual. Frequency should be weekly or at other intervals based on a risk assessment of the operating conditions of the warehouse.  

There are two types of annual inspection commonly available; a full SARI inspection and a (non-SEMA) damage only 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; check rack configuration, type and manufacturer and a general identification of components including a check of the accuracy of load notices. It will also identify repetitive damage and propose future solutions/modifications. Vitally, it will notify of any Red Risks present as classified by SEMA’s traffic light risk categories.

To help end-users prepare, The SEMA Guide to the Conduct of Racking and Shelving Inspections covers in a broken-down easy to follow format, the SEMA approach taken during the “Expert” (normally annual) inspection.

Load Notices

An in-house regular inspection should also check to make sure that loading on a Load Notice is being correctly observed, meeting any dimensional data given and that the Load Notice specifically applies to the rack that its fixed to, often a problem if racking is moved or altered.

See video at http://www.sema.org.uk/load-notices/load-notices-video-short-version


For ‘Regular’ inspections, SEMA recommends that in-house staff attend our Rack Safety Awareness course which covers; responsibilities, what to measure, explanation of the load notice, inspection equipment, practical examples of damage categorisation and damage prevention.

SEMA’s Approved Inspector qualification comprises an intensive three-day training course and the successful completion of both a written examination and practical assessment. The inspector must also commit to a programme of on-going CPD (Continuous Professional Development) to maintain the qualification.

Commercial sense

Commercially speaking, the 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 with actions recorded.

For over 50 years, the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) has led on safe storage practice. Today, SEMA member businesses, together with committees and training initiatives, combine their knowledge, skill and expertise as the British Trade Association of the Storage Equipment Industry. SEMA’s mission is our commitment to promoting and extending the safe design, installation and use of storage equipment manufactured and supplied by our members.

Our corporate member groups include Full Manufacturing Members and Associates plus independently audited SEMA Distributor and Installation Companies. SEMA educational initiatives include the SEMA Rack Inspector qualification and SEIRS, the Storage Equipment Installers’ Registration Scheme.

For more information, visit www.sema.org.uk