SEMA’s Onion Skin Approach to Rack Inspection

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01 February 2018

SEMA’s Onion Skin Approach to Rack Inspection

Guidance on best practice from SEMA’s Technical Committee

In 2017, the storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) refreshed its rigorous approach to rack inspections as rack collapses can and do cause severe injury and even fatality. There are three main reasons for a rack inspection.

  1. To check the condition of equipment for health and safety reasons and repair work may be needed
  2. To satisfy legal requirements. To provide a safe place of work and ensure that work equipment is suitable – to meet the Health and Safety at Work Act and PUWER
  3. To verify that the equipment has been installed correctly

Note that inspection is not a substitute for deficient, defective or absent specification, design, installation, training or maintenance.

Appoint a PRSS

The warehouse management team needs to appoint a Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS) or sometimes the PRSES, who should take responsibility for maintaining safe operation of the warehouse storage system, maintain rack inspection and maintenance records. They need to have the skills necessary to analyse damage data, identify trends, propose/implement action and, most importantly, have the authority to implement action.

SEMA’s Onion Skin Approach

The SEMA onion consists of three layers with three levels of inspection

  1. Immediate (used to be called the daily) inspection
  2. Regular (used to be called the weekly) inspection
  3. Expert (annual) inspection

Immediate Inspections

Immediate inspections require the reporting of all damage and areas of concern to the PRRS. Warehouse staff are often the best position to see if a racking has been damaged and this should be encouraged to report damage immediately. Reporting should follow documented procedure with records kept on the action taken following reports. Remember the KIS principle of Keep It Simple if you want effectiveness!

Regular Inspections

The PRRS should ensure documented inspections are undertaken and 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 and at a quiet time.  Loading is as specified on the safe load, correct use is being followed and are there any missing components?

Expert (Annual) Inspection

The expert inspection should be carried out by a technically trained and competent person i.e. SEMA Approved Rack Inspector (SARI), trained specialist within an organisation or a specialist from the rack supplier. Frequency depends upon risk assessment, but usually yearly which is open to review. A documented report will identify damage and give guidance and comment on other warehouse activities.

Note that there are two very different types of SARI inspection.  A damage only inspection provides a list of damaged items and their location. A full SARI report, also offers far more, very useful detail – see SEMA Technical Bulletin 5 and below.

The inspector should use simple measuring equipment, work in a logical, systematic way, carry out the inspection at a slow walking pace and record results of inspection so that others can act on the information. Both regular inspection and SARI inspections are normally a visual inspection from ground level so working at height shouldn’t be necessary and cluttered aisles make any sort of inspection difficult.

Full SARI inspection

The full SARI inspection will check immediate and regular scrutiny is being carried out; identify/check rack configuration, type and manufacturer and general identification of components and check load notices. It will offer inspection results and classification and confirm that damaged components are being replaced as required. It also will identify repetitive damage and propose solutions/modifications to avoid further repetitive damage. Vitally, it will notify of any Red Risks present.

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).In additiona the new SEMA Guide to the Conduct of Inspections both have useful advice.

Load Notices

The regular inspection should also check to make sure that loading is correct by checking that the loads are within the limits given on the Load Notice and that it specifically applies to the rack that its fixed to, often a problem if racking is moved or altered. See video at

Rack Inspection Training

There are two types of suitable training:

For ‘Regular’ inspection, the SEMA Rack Safety Awareness course covers; responsibilities, what to measure, explanation of the load notice, inspection equipment, practical examples of damage categorisation and damage prevention.

For ‘Expert’ inspection, the SEMA Approved Rack Inspection (SARI) course is the recognised training module.  

Contact SEMA at or call 0121 6016359



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