Technical FAQ's

Load Notices

There is no specific legislation that requires a load sign to be placed on racking. However, there is an obligation on an employer to ensure that employees have all the information that is needed to operate the racking system safely.

The load notice does not just give information about the Safe Working Load (SWL) of the racking; there are also important instructions and information about the general usage of the racking e.g. prohibitions about altering or climbing the racking as well as an instruction to report damage and signposts to information sources.

Without the load notice you would need to find an alternative means of transmitting all the information given on the load notice to the employees.

You might like to refer to the Load notice video on the SEMA website for some more background information https://www.sema.org.uk/load-notices.

The load notice should provide sufficient information to enable the rack to be used in accordance with the designer’s intentions.

If you have racking with different configurations then this information could be transmitted by providing a different load notice for each configuration or, alternatively, by using a load notice that gave an acceptable solution for all the configurations – what an engineer might call a “conservative” or “lower-bound solution”.

There is more information about load notices on the SEMA website https://www.sema.org.uk/load-notices/load-notices-video-short-version

Inspections

To your specific point, it boils down to your risk assessment as to what needs inspecting. You can have office shelving which can be classed as furniture and as long as you don’t have people pulling such items as loaded hand pallet trucks into the offices and the potential of impact and collapse can be treated in the same way as you would normal office furniture.

However, archive stores where the possibility of moving trolleys being used is much greater and the weights being stored could possibly also be much greater. A tidy up in such areas from time to time would be useful as the main issue is I doubt if you know what weight you are imposing on the shelving and also suspect there are no safe working load signs on the shelving to allow your operatives to understand what loads they can safely place on the shelves in order to use the system.

There is probably some work to be done here on safe load signage and understanding the imposed loads that you have.

Whether you require a third-party sign-off depends on the hand-over certification and the competence of the installer of the racking.

If it is installed by a company who are competent to install the racking and they provide suitable documentation that confirms that the racking has been installed in accordance with SEMA and the racking manufactures requirements, then an additional official check may not be required.

Please note there are 3 types of inspection:

(a) Immediate Inspections

Immediate reporting of all damage and areas of concern to a ‘Person Responsible for Rack Safety’ (PRRS). This should follow a documented procedure with records kept on the action taken as a result of such reports. All warehouse staff should be encouraged to report damage immediately.

(b) Regular Inspections

The PRRS should ensure that documented inspections are made at weekly or other intervals based on a risk assessment on the operating conditions of the warehouse. The inspection should be carried out by a suitably trained individual. The SEMA one day rack safety awareness training course is considered appropriate training for the Regular Inspection.

(c) Expert (Annual) Inspection

The third level of inspection is a yearly, or twice-yearly inspection (period depending on the risk assessment) of the rack carried out by a qualified Rack Inspector. Such an inspection will result in a documented report which will identify damage and will also provide guidance and comment on other warehouse activities. The Expert inspection should be carried out by a technically competent person. It is recommended that this inspection is carried out by a SEMA Approved Rack Inspector (SARI).

SEMA recommend that racking inspections should be carried out on an onion skin approach. First of all the equipment operators are the first line of defence and should always be encouraged to report damage as it occurs. In order to achieve this there should not be a blame culture or nothing will ever be reported and also the operators need to see that things happen as a result of reporting some damage or again nothing will be reported. 

The second line of defence should be a supervisor’s weekly patrol inspection carried out with the express purpose of checking the racking. This should be done at weekly intervals normally at a standard walking pace keeping documented records of the inspection and action points resulting from the inspection. Out of interest SEAM run one day ‘rack awareness’ courses at West Bromwich about once every two weeks where a supervisor can obtain some training about what is required from inspections.

The final level of protection is the formal inspection that should be carried out every 6 or 12 months depending on the level of activity in the warehouse. A high throughput warehouse operating 24/7 would be at the lower end of the range and indeed might need inspections every three months in some circumstances. In slower moving single shift environments, the inspection could be at the top end of the scale. This would be the competent person inspection that you refer to and while HSE are keen to endure a high standard in such inspectors they will not insist that it is work that can only be done by people with a certain level of qualification. SEMA run a SARI (SEMA Approved Rack inspector) qualification whereby a rack inspector can demonstrate the level of training and competence to a client and a number of us who carry out such surveys on a regular basis have passed through this course which is of a very high standard and has a significant failure rate. If you need such a person you will find an up to date list of qualified SARI inspectors together with contact details on the SEMA web site www.sema.org.uk 

Having said all the above it is possible for an inspector to demonstrate his competency by means other than this course however that is a matter between the inspector and the client.

SEMA recommend that racking inspections should be carried out on an onion skin approach. First of all the equipment operators are the first line of defence and should always be encouraged to report damage as it occurs. In order to achieve this there should not be a blame culture or nothing will ever be reported and also the operators need to see that things happen as a result of reporting some damage or again nothing will be reported. 

The second line of defence should be a supervisor’s weekly patrol inspection carried out with the express purpose of checking the racking. This should be done at weekly intervals normally at a standard walking pace keeping documented records of the inspection and action points resulting from the inspection. Out of interest SEAM run one day ‘rack awareness’ courses at West Bromwich about once every two weeks where a supervisor can obtain some training about what is required from inspections.

The final level of protection is the formal inspection that should be carried out every 6 or 12 months depending on the level of activity in the warehouse. A high throughput warehouse operating 24/7 would be at the lower end of the range and indeed might need inspections every three months in some circumstances. In slower moving single shift environments, the inspection could be at the top end of the scale. This would be the competent person inspection that you refer to and while HSE are keen to endure a high standard in such inspectors they will not insist that it is work that can only be done by people with a certain level of qualification. SEMA run a SARI (SEMA Approved Rack inspector) qualification whereby a rack inspector can demonstrate the level of training and competence to a client and a number of us who carry out such surveys on a regular basis have passed through this course which is of a very high standard and has a significant failure rate. If you need such a person you will find an up to date list of qualified SARI inspectors together with contact details on the SEMA web site www.sema.org.uk 

Having said all the above it is possible for an inspector to demonstrate his competency by means other than this course however that is a matter between the inspector and the client.

SWL FAQs

Unfortunately SEMA do not have the load data for the various manufacturers’ propriety products. Your best course of action is to contact the manufacturer of your racking system. Either they, or their appointed distributor, should be able to give you the information you require, particularly as you will have to purchase 3.3 metre beams to accommodate this new bay size. If this approach fails, you will need to obtain the services of Specialist Engineering Consultant to calculate the data. 

The issue is that you need to inform anyone who is using the rack with carrying capacity information and anything else they need to know to use the rack safely. 

In theory therefore if all your racking in the warehouse was to the same configuration and all fork trucks came into and out of the warehouse through one single door it would be adequate to have only one sign adjacent to the door as all drivers would pass this sign before placing pallets in the rack. 

Life is rarely that simple however, but it does boil down to your risk assessment. If you have a lot of racking the same, then a sign on every other rack or even every 3rd run might be acceptable. If there are differences between adjacent runs where drivers might become confused, then you would need to anticipate this and have more signage so there is no excuse for operators making mistakes and blaming the lack of signage as the cause.

Racking ID & Safe working Loads

Photographs 0008 and 0028 are by Hilo manufacturing. Hilo used to be a SEMA member and were based in Woolwich. They were subject to several takeovers but are now part of the Constructor group who are SEMA members.https://www.sema.org.uk/members/full-members/companyprofile/141/constructor-group-uk-ltd

The product shown in the photos may be discontinued.

Photographs 0009 and 0029 are by Link51. Link 51 are part of the Whittan group and are SEMA members https://www.sema.org.uk/members/full-members/companyprofile/136/whittan

Photographs 0010 and 0030 are by Esmena. Esmena is a Spanish company that was taken over by another Spanish company called Mecalux about 10 years ago. https://www.mecalux.co.uk/

Information about load notices is available on the SEMA website https://www.sema.org.uk/load-notices

Unfortunately SEMA do not have the load data for the various manufacturers’ propriety products. Your best course of action is to contact the manufacturer of your racking system. Either they, or their appointed distributor, should be able to give you the information you require, particularly as you will have to purchase 3.3 metre beams to accommodate this new bay size. If this approach fails, you will need to obtain the services of Specialist Engineering Consultant to calculate the data. 

When does Shelving become Racking?

Generally, shelving is storage media that cannot be approached by mechanical handling devices such as forklift trucks, order pickers and other heavy pieces of mechanical handling equipment where it would be classed as racking. The reasoning being that with thin shelving upright and other sections an accidental collision from a piece of mechanical handling equipment can be very dangerous. Shelving is therefore normally hand loaded and due to manual handling guidance, has unit loads of less than 20 or 25 Kg depending on the country, and is isolated from heavy mechanical handling equipment.

It is often thought that ‘shelving’ would have a height restriction however as I am sure you are aware it is possible to have 3 and 4 tier shelving systems as well as having crane swept systems where the crane is guided by mechanical means such that there is no possibility of the crane hitting the shelving structure. If shelving is correctly designed such high shelving structures are perfectly possible. Where this occurs the hand loading and picking as opposed to mechanical handling is the means of operation that probably gives the clearest definition between the two.

Just to complete the story, shelving is not suitable under any circumstances for operatives climbing the shelves to retrieve items of goods.

A key difference between racking and shelving is that shelving is almost always loaded by hand and the weight of the individual goods carried is comparatively low (typically less than 25kg), furthermore the total weight carried in a bay of shelving will typically be less than 4T. Racking is typically loaded by machine (forklift truck or crane) and the unit loads carried are typically heavy, i.e. many hundreds of kg; pallet weights exceeding 1T are common. The weight of goods carried in a bay of racking can exceed 40T in extreme circumstances. Racking is typically, therefore, a heavier duty system than shelving utilising larger members and thicker material.

If a racking structure has some sort of flat surface (decking, panels etc.) positioned on the beams then (with appropriate design) it is possible to use a racking structure as shelving. It is impossible to safely use a shelving structure as racking, i.e. storing pallets etc.

SEMA defines racking as:

A skeleton framework of fixed or adjustable design to support loads generally without the use of shelves. The term racking is usually qualified, e.g. Pallet Racking, Tyre Racking, Drum Racking etc.

Adjustable pallet racking is defined as:

A system of upright frames that are connected by horizontal beams to provide pallet storage levels, which can be adjusted vertically.

SEMA defines Shelving as:

A series of load carrying surfaces (shelves) supported by upright frames

Unfortunately, many people are not particularly precise in the use of these terms and will interchange them, which can lead to confusion.

To your specific point, it boils down to your risk assessment as to what needs inspecting. You can have office shelving which can be classed as furniture and as long as you don’t have people pulling such items as loaded hand pallet trucks into the offices and the potential of impact and collapse can be treated in the same way as you would normal office furniture.

However, archive stores where the possibility of moving trolleys being used is much greater and the weights being stored could possibly also be much greater. A tidy up in such areas from time to time would be useful as the main issue is I doubt if you know what weight you are imposing on the shelving and suspect there are no safe working load signs on the shelving to allow your operatives to understand what loads they can safely place on the shelves in order to use the system.

There is probably some work to be done here on safe load signage and understanding the imposed loads that you have.