A video appeared in the news recently that showed one of the worst accidents imaginable taking place within a warehouse. We see a forklift driver travel down a narrow aisle and accidentally brush against one of the racking units. In a matter of seconds, he is buried under a mountain of pallets, products and metal shelving as the three-quarters of the warehouse collapses.
It is not known if the driver was injured or where this warehouse is located. The video which was posted on social media and has had thousands of views and shares and lots of people’s comments. Many blaming the driver, others blaming the racking.
The fact is that the warehouse was an accident waiting to happen. For such a tragedy to occur the fault can only lie with the company running the warehouse who clearly had not installed the storage system correctly, or conducted any subsequent inspections. Had there been sufficient safety barriers this accident wouldn’t and couldn’t have happened. Below we cover some of the basic elements you must cover by law to ensure you warehouse meets the required health and safety standards.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 state that all pallet racking and shelving must meet the standards it sets out. This also includes carrying out regular inspections to ensure the safety of the people working in the facility.
The latest Health and Safety guide HSG76 also confirms that inspections must be carried out on a frequent basis, ensuring the system is being properly maintained and repaired where needed.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines recommend that you use a racking supplier who is either a Storage Equipment Manufacturing Association (SEMA) member, or one that rigidly follows their guidance. They regularly update their guidelines every year, so ensure you keep up-to-date with the latest practices as they change.
Rack inspection regularity
While there is no fixed schedule for how often racking should be inspected, each warehouse should assess their requirements based on the following:
- The dimensions of the racking system being used and the size of the warehouse.
- How much activity occurs on a daily basis in the storage area.
- The type of operational equipment being used in the warehouse (forklifts etc.).
- What sort of ambient conditions are present in the facility.
- The skill level of the staff employed to work there.
A Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS) should be nominated within every warehouse. Their responsibility will be to look at the above factors and then determine how frequently the racking inspections should occur.
At least one racking inspection should take place every 12 months, according to the law. This will require a report to be completed and handed to the PRRS to allow them to address any concerns. While this is the minimum requirement, regular checks should be conducted throughout the course of the year.
Levels of inspection
The HSE racking inspection document lays out a number of different levels of inspection as follows:
Level 1: Immediate reporting
This means any damaged or defective racking must be reported through an established procedure. Any changes to safety procedures must be passed on to staff so they can use the storage systems correctly and safely.
Level 2: Visual inspections
HSE guidelines recommend that racking is inspected weekly, or at regular intervals by the PRRS. After a risk assessment for the site has been completed then an inspection schedule can be organised.
Level 3: Expert inspections
A SEMA Approved Rack Inspector (SARI) must carry out this level of inspection at least once a year. A report must then be passed onto the PRRS and any issue discussed and addressed.
If any damage is discovered during the inspection these are placed into three different categories:
Green Level: The system is safe and in good condition. The load capacity can remain and no immediate repairs are required.
Amber Level: Part of the installation has been damaged and will require attention immediately. Only the damaged section has to be removed and repaired.
Red Risk: Serious damage has occurred which requires immediate action. All racking in the immediate area must be removed. While repairs are ongoing, the racking and affected area must be kept off limits to staff members.