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Technical hub of excellence

19 November 2019

In its relatively brief history to date, SEMA has become a world leader in the field of setting industry standards, says Alan Worrell, chairman, SEMA Technical Committee.

Technical excellence has been the very essence of SEMA’s mission since its inception in 1968. The very structure of the association’s DNA is technically inter-linked and so the conformity of each group and every member to a set of measurable standards has generated the industry safety model. Approved and adopted without compromise, through technical standardisation.

SEMA has led on best safety practice and many of its outputs are adopted nationally, across Europe and the world over. The work of our Technical Committee is well renowned, and leadership continues through membership of the British Materials Handling Federation (BMHF) and Le Federation Europeenne de la Manutention (FEM). SEMA is the UK National Committee Member of one of FEM’s seven product groups; Racking and Shelving. 

Functioning Life Cycle of a Rack

  • End-user - operational “need” leads to the choice of racking. Initially the layout of the racking is determined based on the throughput requirement of the warehouse. 
  • Design process - SEMA codes are used to ensure the racking can work correctly with other equipment and fulfil the desired requirement
  • Technical - specialists ensure the rack can withstand the applied loads
  • Manufacture - parts are produced to meet design requirements
  • In-use – the rack is designed to fulfil a purpose and if used incorrectly it will not function correctly or could be extremely dangerous
  • Inspection – once in use the rack needs to be maintained in the condition that the designer intended throughout its life. 

The SEMA Rack Safety Awareness (RSA) course is provided for users so that they can check their racking and damage is identified and corrected on a continuing basis. SEMA Approved Inspectors can provide annual inspections to identify damaged items for replacement and keep racking in good order.

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. 

For more information, telephone 0121 6016359 or email enquiry@sema.org.uk. 

SEMA’s definitive work is formalised into a set of codes and guides that are certainly not just for technicians and engineers but are of direct relevance to all those involved with the management and safety of warehouse operations. Together with training, these “codes of honour” as we like to call them, provide a framework for the safe design, installation and use of storage equipment manufactured and supplied by our members. We currently have over 75 technical publications to our credit – including the box set of Tool Box Talks for practical use by installers on site.

Meeting Health and Safety law via PUWER is central to SEMA’s mission. PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (1999 in Northern Ireland). The regulations deal with the work equipment and machinery used every day in workplaces and aims to keep people safe wherever equipment and machinery is used at work.

SEMA’s design codes

SEMA’s Technical Committee has developed a series of design codes covering both static and other pallet racking types together with formal publications for both low and high-rise static steel shelving. Its codes also cover mobile racking, mobile shelving systems together with cantilever racking systems and the design and use of racking protection. 

SEMA has also authored two codes with respect to installation. In terms of installation tolerances, we do not live in a perfect world and we still have to consider imperfections. When we design racking, we understand the floor will not be perfectly flat, nor will the uprights be perfectly vertical. Therefore, installers and designers work to the same tolerances which are set out in SEMA’s Tolerances Code which gives limits to be achieved by the installers so that the rack will operate correctly and carry intended loads. 

The SEMA Installation Code gives installation guidelines for installers of different types of racking and shelving and provides a foundation for SEIRS, the Storage Equipment Installers’ Registration Scheme.

Technical Guidance and Training Summary

Codes of Practice for structural design

  • The design and use of cantilever racking systems
  • Code of Practice for the design and use of racking protection
  • Code of Practice for the design of adjustable pallet racking 
  • Code of Practice for the design of high-rise static steel shelving
  • Code of Practice for the design of low-rise static steel shelving
  • Code of Practice for the design of mobile racking systems
  • Code of Practice for the design of mobile shelving systems

Installation and In-Use

  • Guideline No2 – Guide to erection tolerances for static racking
  • Method statements for the installation of storage equipment
  • SEIRS Racking installation training


  • Code of Practice for the use of static racking
  • Load notices
  • SEMA Rack Safety Awareness course 


  • Guide to the conduct of racking and shelving inspections
  • SARI – SEMA qualification on racking inspection


  • SEMA Rack Maintenance course

To support ongoing safe use of storage equipment, SEMA publishes two further codes which provide information on how to use the equipment safely. Initially, a very brief overview of a rack’s capabilities were shown on the Load Notice which today continues to be fixed to the end of a racking run. SEMA has always recognised the importance of providing information on the dos and don'ts of using storage equipment and, going back as far as the 1980s, information was issued in The Code for the Use of Static Pallet Racking, known as the Users Code.

SEMA has continually monitored the storage environment and as time went by, it became clear that a code on Load Notices was needed. The Load Notice Code prescribes a layout for the load notice signage and the information that should be included. Today, it includes a list of warnings, prohibitions and mandatory behaviours as well as loading data and some administrative information in order to comply with the Safety Signs and Signals Regulations. In 2008, SEMA’s Load Notice Code was (effectively) adopted across Europe in EN15635.

Secondly, the SEMA “Code of Practice for The Use of Static Pallet Racking”, first published for guidance on racking a great deal of the content is also applicable to other products. Outlining responsibilities for both supplier and user, it discusses how to specify, detailing the information that needs to flow between the user and their supplier. On pallets and trucks, there’s basic information about the loading and unloading sequence for various pallet racking systems and suitability of pallets. It also covers basic details on the storage area itself, including the floor, highlighting some pitfalls to avoid.