Are pallet racking inspections a legal requirement?

Pallet racking inspection requirements may not always appear to be so clear to anyone new to warehouse management. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) offer help in this area, providing advisory guidance to ensure you remain compliant with legal requirements. Below we explain more about what to look out for when organising your inspections.

What are HSE pallet racking inspection requirements?

While HSE guidance is ‘advisable’ and not stating any clear laws, they do try to advise on best practice with regards to the health and safety of all employers working within the facility. They state that warehouse owners are the ones who are legally responsible for the safety of anyone who works or enters the space – although this is judged within reason.

You are not responsible for the safety of everybody in the warehouse at any cost. An example of this sort of extreme protection would be to dismantle your pallet racking systems and to ask everyone to leave. It would ensure everyone is completely safe, but at the same time mean you could not function as a business. All risk would certainly be eliminated, but it could never be justified as a racking inspection requirement.

In practical terms you should take the common sense approach and do everything within reason to ensure everyone’s safety. HSE do provide specific advice on pallet racking inspection requirements, which can be found in their HSG76 document.

What does the HSG76 document say about pallet racking safety requirements?

When you take a closer look at the document, it is recommended that a SEMA (Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association) approved racking inspection takes place at least once a year. Weekly racking inspections should also take place overseen by “technically competent” staff.

The question is how much of this is a legal requirement? The answer is that you are not legally required to follow the above guidance. HSE state that you have the freedom to take other action if needed, although they do also state that by using this guidance it should be enough for you to comply with the law.

Construction (Design and Management) Regulations also confirm that the warehouse owner is solely responsible for the safety of their employees, whereas before it was shared with HSE.

Does pallet racking need to be legally certified?

It is important to be aware that if you choose not to certify the safety of your pallet racking you are going against the advice provided by HSE. In the event of a pallet racking-related accident occurring it would mean the warehouse owner would be held legally responsible. By not having annual SEMA-approved inspections take place, it would be reasonable to argue that not enough was done to ensure the safety of the person who suffered the accident.

It is also important to note that while there is no law that specifically relates to racking inspections, you are legally obligated to carry out a risk assessment to look at the dangers posed to staff and visitors. This requires you to put a plan of action in place to mitigate these risks so they can be managed and reduced wherever possible.

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998 states that staff should have access to safe working equipment and have the right to be protected from harm caused by a failure to take reasonable control measures. This is a legal requirement you are responsible for providing at all times.

How does a pallet racking inspection work?

When an inspection is carried out, all records of it must be recorded in a log book. SEMA use a colour coded system to identify the level of risk posed by the condition:

• Green risk:

This is seen as acceptable damage and within SEMA limits. No immediate action is required although you must continue to monitor the condition of the racking to ensure it does not deteriorate. You can use the green risk to notice any patterns of damage that may be occurring on the pallet racking, so you can identify the cause and put preventative measures in place to lower the chances of it happening again in the future.

• Amber risk:

If damage falls into the amber risk zone it is deemed as exceeding allowable limits and is in need of repair or replacement. However, it is not severe enough to be actioned immediately. This doesn’t mean it should be left for a long time, instead, the affected part or location should be offloaded as soon as possible and not reused until sufficient repairs have been carried out. If no action is taken within one month it will automatically move into Red status and need to be removed immediately.

• Red risk:

Where there is a high degree of damage that is some way above allowable limits this is deemed as a red risk and needs to be dealt with immediately. There are two types of red risk that may be noted in any inspection report. It may either be a newly identified risk or an amber risk that remained dormant for one month and has now been escalated as a red risk.

Inspection checklist

The checklist below is designed to help you keep your warehouse safe. The latest health and safety regulations should always be adhered to and serve as an ideal starting point.

• Ensure your racking system is inspected every 12 months by a NVQ qualified industrial storage equipment inspector
• Regular inspections should be carried out across the year, ideally at weekly intervals.
• As soon as any defects or damage are spotted they should be reported.
• Any racking that is damaged or out of use should be kept out of the system until fixed.
• All racking systems should be purchased from a supplier who follows SEMA guidelines.
• Make sure your staff are trained to understand how to use the racking system.
• Identify someone within the business who can become a Person Responsible for Racking Safety (PRRS)
• Keep a record of all inspections and any damage in a secure log book.
• Assess the various factors that affect the frequency of the racking inspections.
• Undertake a course on racking safety inspection and encourage members of staff to do the same.
• Use mechanical handling devices wherever possible to retrieve stock from the racking system.

Contact our team to book your racking inspection on 01937 585057.