The Importance of Racking Inspections

The safety of a warehouse is crucial to maintain a safe working environment for staff and protect inventory from damage. Failure of the racking system can have a number of consequences, and not just financial. As the materials used in the manufacture of racking are fairly lightweight there is only so much impact systems can take before they become damaged. Each impact to the racking reduces its integrity, with more severe damage posing a huge safety risk. To ensure your racking performs to its optimal level, regular inspections should be carried out, with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stating in their HSG76 guidance that “a technically competent person should carry out inspections at intervals of not more than 12 months.”

What are the causes of damage to racking systems?

There are a number of ways a racking systems can be damaged, with the most common cause down to been hit by a fork truck. This could be the fork truck colliding with it at ground level, which damages the upright, or the forks damaging a beam by hitting it whilst trying to retrieve a pallet.

Another cause of damage is down to the storage of goods, in that they exceed the maximum load of the system, as outlined on the load notice, or they are not stacked on the pallet correctly and the load is disproportionately spread causing strain on the beam.

Incorrect installation can affect the integrity of the system and cause it to damage. This can be due to the beams not connecting to the uprights correctly, or the uprights not being bolted in securely and moving under strain.

Installing second hand racking can lead to problems, especially if it is old or has pre-existing damage, with its origin difficult to trace. Related to this, it is also possible on occasions that component parts, such as beam locks, are sourced which are different to the beams and uprights and weaken the overall structure as a result.

There are a few ways to protect racking from damage, including barriers which prevent the fork truck from driving into the racking and upright protectors to limit the impact of collision damage.

If there is regular damage to the racking, an alternative is to use an automated storage solution which would reduce the need for fork trucks and eliminate the risk of collision.

What is a racking inspection?

Simply put, it is a visual inspection of all racking systems within your warehouse to assess the condition of the racking and outline any repair work that is needed. Whilst these are suggested to be carried out annually, there are situations which are site specific and require them to be more frequent, such as the high frequency of goods retrieval and vehicles used within the warehouse.

SEMA have published racking inspection guidelines which categorise damage into three colour coded levels.

Green: this level stipulates that the racking system is considered safe and requires no action beyond monitoring.

Amber: this level indicates that there is damage that requires action as soon as possible. Whilst it is important to remedy the damage quickly, it doesn’t warrant the need for the racking to be immediately emptied. Any amber level issues should be rectified before goods are loaded back onto the racking. Any racking within the amber category should be redesignated to red if repair work is not completed within four weeks of the inspection.

Red: racking within this category has suffered serious damage and goods should be offloaded immediately. The racking should be isolated until repair work has been carried out and signed off.

On top of a formal inspection, visual inspections should take place regularly by the warehouse team and any damage reported to the designated person immediately. Any damage caused by an operative or vehicle should also be reported immediately.

Why is it important?

The most important reason behind a racking inspection is for the safety of operatives within the warehouse. Secondly, racking that is safe and fully operational ensures the safe storage of goods and optimises the space available by not having red category racking out of action.

SEMA guidelines are just guidelines, which the HSE outlines as best practice to operate a safe warehouse. Whilst they aren’t laws, they are generally recognised as industry standard. And if adhering to them protects your workforce and makes your operation safer, it is advisable to follow the guidelines.

Quickline can provide a SEMA Approved Racking Inspector (SARI) to carry out your racking inspection and provide a comprehensive service for any repair work that is needed.