The way of the SARI

16 July 2018

Mike Vaughan is a fully qualified SEMA Approved Racking Inspector (SARI) and he says most businesses need educating on rack safety.

Sadly, SARI inspections lead us to believe that too many businesses (up to 90% perhaps) are totally unaware of the potential consequences of poor rack maintenance. There are three cardinal sins which are seen repeatedly.

First, the term “Adjustable” Pallet Racking can only stretch so far! Before changing the physical configuration of racking, to ensure continued compliance, the owner must consult with the manufacturer or supplier to check that the new load capacity still meets within the original design. Then there’s the “unmanaged” warehouse where all sorts of perils lurk unheeded. Thirdly, seriously deformed uprights and beams can remain un-repaired or replaced for far too long.

The golden rule is that inspection is not a substitute for deficient, defective or absent specification, design, installation, training, operation or maintenance. SEMA states its purpose is to:

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • To verify the equipment has been installed and maintained to a particular specification or standard. 

Three levels of inspection
There should be three levels, 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, 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. 

I recommend that warehouse management teams appoint a Person Responsible for Racking Safety to ensure safe operation of the warehouse storage system, establish firm routines of rack inspection and maintenance records. The warehouse team need to be able to analyse damage data, identify trends, propose/implement action and, most importantly, have the authority to implement action. 

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 have an effect on its robustness, components may come loose, and the rack can fall into disrepair, compromising safety.

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.

The SARI Qualification is for professionals with inspection experience and who are ideally qualified to HND/degree level. It’s a three-day intensive course validated by written examination and practical assessment and requires evidence of commitment to on-going CPD (Continuous Professional Development). Only then can the SARI logo be displayed. 

Mike has over three decades of sector experience in manufacture and distribution. He is one of 120 fully SEMA qualified SARIs across the UK conducting racking condition assessments, reports and recommendations so that storage facilities warehouses and other places of employment can operate as safe environments.

0121 6016359

SEMA’s traffic light system categorises rack damage

Red Risk

Areas where a high level of damage is identified over twice the SEMA limits. This warrants immediate offloading and isolation until repair work is carried out. 

Amber Risk

Areas where the damage identified is greater than the SEMA limits. This warrants remedial work to be carried out. However, the damage is not sufficiently severe to warrant immediate offloading of the area. No additional loads shall be placed in the affected area and once the pallet positions in this area are emptied they should not be refilled until repairs are carried out. If repairs are not effected in 4 weeks an Amber risk item automatically becomes a Red risk item.

Green Risk

Areas where damage is present, however the level of damage is within the SEMA limits and should be recorded for further consideration at the next inspection. See our blog our blog at