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Safe Storage is Mission Possible

07 November 2018

Jaap Vos, President of SEMA, the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association says that given the volume of safety and guidance available, there is no excuse for occupational ill health, injury or fatality.

Safety in the storage industry is well within reach when you follow best practice as defined by SEMA, the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association. As the British Trade Association of the Storage Equipment Industry, our definitive standards have been established gradually but succinctly over half a century. We are committed to promoting the safe design, installation and use of storage equipment manufactured and supplied by our members.

SEMA’s groups are interrelated so to support end users every step of the way. Our guidance has been diligently thought through from project specification, through design, manufacture, distribution and installation involving SAICS and SEIRS personnel. All work to relevant codes and are routinely, independently audited to meet our stringent QA criteria.

To maintain safety in-use, we also deliver on the ground, rack inspections which are undertaken by highly trained, qualified and experienced personnel (SARIs). Our system of identifying, classifying damage and reporting on inspections has been adopted across the globe – just one of several ways in which SEMA can demonstrate world class leadership on safety.

Aimed at end users and other industry professionals, SEMA stages two external thought leadership events. An internal annual meeting is also held to share best practice and disseminate SEMA expertise among its member groups. The annual 2018 safety conference, Mission Possible, expanded its remit to include some of the wider challenges in the workplace. Respected speakers broke new ground covering issues such as mental health, 21st century leadership, and a real-life case study of a fork lift casualty who had to deal with rehabilitation following amputation. These examples bring home the diverse responsibilities of safe storage management.

Our two yearly, technical seminar with speakers from SEMA’s Technical Committee aims to cover a raft of innovative content relevant to all those working on the Technical side of safe design, manufacture, supply installation and safe use of storage systems. 


Working closely with the statutory authorities, SEMA’s influence this year has helped each of our groups to continue to evolve. The work of our Technical Committee is well renowned and continues at both national and European levels.

Under the remit of due diligence, we seek to prove that SEMA products are some of the very best on the market. Members are compelled to engage in independent product assessments carried out on our behalf by the University of Salford. We are reviewing the technical processes required in the design of racking materials which will fit neatly into our manufacturing Quality Assurance scheme.

There’re never enough hours in the day, but SEMA continues to expand and update a wide range of publications from detailed codes of practice to its very practical Tool Box Talks. A Code of Practice on the Installation of Pallet Racking and Other Storage Systems is scheduled for publication in early 2019 and a live storage document is also planned. SEMA’s publication list of over 75 titles are continually being reviewed and some “elderly” references are scheduled to be updated or archived.


Other SEMA groups have continued to make measurable strides, two of which are now fully independently audited on compliance standards. Since its formation in 2011, the SEMA Distributor Group (SDG) continues to grow in numbers and strength. Four years ago, the group set out to differentiate themselves from other storage industry operators. Today, it is the only scheme in the UK that independently audits the competence of resellers and distributors of storage equipment. The appraisals follow a three-year cycle and second time around, our Distributor Companies (SDCs) proved that outstanding progress was made since the process was initiated. The evidence-based assessments for the 30-strong group revealed that every single member passed scrutiny, with average scores improving by a comfortable margin to 86%. The percentage achieving Highly Commended doubled to 61%. This means that every single SDC can prove that their project implementation meets and beats the SEMA QA standard by way of independent certification.

Sadly, we know that there are still a number of companies out there passing themselves off as affiliated to SEMA when not entitled to do so. SEMA is currently undertaking a series of actions to allow the possibility for potential legal steps to be taken when this occurs, further enhancing the strength of the SEMA brand. 

Key facts about SEMA

  • 165 members (including over 100 racking inspectors)
  • 100 training courses per year
  • Over 75 definitive technical publications
  • Over 5000 SEIRS installers and seven different courses
  • SEIRS approved by CSCS for Partner Card Scheme
  • Annual safety conference and two-yearly technical seminar

So as the saying goes, “Let the Buyer Beware” and end users should ask to see the SDC’s current audit certificate before signing on the dotted line. Well, you wouldn’t buy a new gas boiler without checking if your installer was on the Gas Safety Register, would you?

This year, SEMA Approved Installation Companies (SAICs) followed suit. This in-depth quality audit was designed to inject further rigour into SEMA group membership criteria. Outcomes were very positive with 23% of companies achieved a Highly Commended score of 90% or above.  SAICs are now working towards a three-year programme of continuous improvement.


The SEMA Approved Rack Inspectors (SARIs) support the safe use, inspection and maintenance of racking in-situ by means of its “Onion Skin” approach. To help end-users fit in with this process The SEMA Guide to the Conduct of Racking and Shelving Inspections covers in a broken-down easy to follow format, the approach taken during the “Expert” (normally annual) inspection.

 This SEMA “Onion Skin” 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 SARI or a trained specialist who can be internal or external. 

Take note that two very different types of Inspection can take place.  A “damage only” inspection just provides a list of damaged items and their location and is not a full inspection, whereas a full SARI inspection will offer much more detail and recommendations, on damage and how to reduce it following SEMA’s well-respected Traffic Light classification of racking damage.


A best practice example of the industry regulating itself to meet HSE standards is the Storage Equipment Installers’ Registration Scheme (SEIRS), which was first established in 2000. SEMA’s installer training scheme is approved to operate as a Partner Card Scheme of CSCS as it meets the requirements of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). Over 5000 SEIRS installers have benefitted from SEIR’s seven different courses. Installers are required to take a refresher course every three years. 

While national organisations are usually being well resourced on safety issues, SEMA believes that many small to medium sized businesses that could benefit from the expert support offered by a SEMA member company as the pressures on SMEs continue to grow.