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The way of the SARI

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01 July 2018

Day in the Life of a SEMA Rack Inspector

 

By Mike Vaughan, SEMA Approved Racking Inspector (SARI)

Mike Vaughan is a fully qualified SARI with 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.

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.

Firstly, 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 unrepaired 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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