3 Unexpected Pallet Racking Dangers and How to Avoid Them

a worker fallen on a wet floor

If you don’t get your racking inspection frequency right, you could fall victim to some of these lesser-known dangers.

HSE’s stance on racking inspection frequency is that every warehouse should have at least one inspection from an expert, such as a SEMA approved racking inspector, once a year and that regular racking inspections should be performed by “technically competent” staff. HSE outlines this advice its guide to warehouse health and safety, which we recommend that all warehouse owners read in full. Not following this advice, or not fully understanding it, can lead to some racking dangers that you may not have even thought of.

Floor Safety: More Than Slips, Trips, And Falls

When most people think of floor safety, they think of yellow foldaway plastic signs saying “WET FLOOR” and gritted walkways. This kind of floor safety is important and it’s the subject of HSE’s INDG2255 “Preventing Slips and Trips at Work: A Brief Guide”.

However, with regards to storage systems, whether that’s pallet racking or cantilever racking, there are two other major kinds of floor-related danger. Firstly, there are uneven floors. HSE recommends that racking is installed on even flooring. Otherwise, the racking will be unbalanced even when there is no load. Secondly, there are weak floors. We don’t typically think of floors as “weak”, especially those on the ground floor. However, it’s worth finding out what the maximum weight your floors can take is, how you can strengthen them, and where particular weaknesses in your floor might be. Your racking system might be able to handle a certain amount of weight but, if your floor can’t, you’re in a huge amount of danger.

Knowing exactly how and where to install your racking can be difficult for those without proper experience; this is why HSE recommends that it is done by “competent people”. It then recommends installation training from the Storage Equipment Installers Registration Scheme (SEIRS), who are overseen by SEMA. Much like with racking inspection training and racking inspection frequency, HSE has its recommendations, but it is ultimately the warehouse owner’s decision to follow or not follow those recommendations.

In fact, this brings us to an important legal change that occurred with regards to HSE in 2015. It highlights yet another racking danger that the average employer might not be aware of.

“Technically competent” and The 2015 CDM Regulations

“Competent” is a word HSE likes to use a lot in its guide to warehouse safety, and it’s a word which is intentionally vague. This because, since the introduction of the updated CDM regulations in 2015, it is ultimately the warehouse owner’s responsibility (the “client”) to maintain safety in their warehouse. In other words, a “competent” person is whoever a warehouse owner thinks a competent person is.

That said, HSE has its recommendations and, if the worst should happen and a warehouse owner was found flouting these recommendations, then that warehouse owner (that “client”) could be held legally responsible.

This change replaces HSE’s old system of enforcing its recommendations with inspectors. Moreover, according to Tony Mitchell from HSE, the previous system allowed anyone with a card to call themselves an “expert” or “technically competent” and, by the time the regulations were introduced, there were over 300 of these “card schemes”.

Nowadays, there is no enforcement and there are no cards. There are only HSE’s recommendations and the people who a client believes are “technically competent” or an “expert”. If an accident or a fatality happens and the recommendations weren’t followed, then there would be legal action. What is more, the client responsible for the accident would be expected to defend the “technically competent” people or “experts” who worked in their warehouse.

This change can be difficult to understand because it doesn’t change any of HSE’s advice. In fact, upon learning about the new CDM regulations, most employers will continue to act in the same way. However, the unexpected danger that this brings with it is that a warehouse owner may have a very lax definition of “expert” or “technically competent”.

For this reason, we recommend following HSE’s advice as closely as possible. For example, HSE recommends internal racking inspections by a “technically competent” person. For this, consider racking inspection training from a SEMA approved racking inspector — an inspector which HSE labels an “expert” — in order to give your staff the technical competence they need.

Racking Inspection Frequency and Bad Lighting

Bad lighting is a much bigger problem for workplaces than most realise. Badly placed lighting fixtures can be troublesome for racking systems in particular for two reasons.

  1. They could be physically blocking the racking
  2. They do not light the racking system well enough

Avoiding the former danger is simply a matter of moving the lighting far enough away from the racking system or installing the racking system so that this is not an issue. Avoiding the latter danger can be slightly more difficult.

The correct racking inspection frequency for internal, staff-permed racking inspections is up to the warehouse owner. However, with bad lighting, it won’t matter how high this racking inspection frequency is. An expert racking inspector, such as a SEMA approved racking inspector, knows exactly what to look for and where to find it. However, your staff will not be experienced enough to know if your racking is damaged under bad lighting — no matter how many times they inspect it.

To make your warehouse safer, you need to make sure that every part of your warehouse is well lit. This can be difficult and, as objects move around the warehouse and light bulbs fade, it changes. Still, as with all safety precautions, keeping your warehouse well-lit is a constant process.

Make sure that your warehouse avoids these unexpected dangers with a SEMA approved racking inspection from SEE.

Making Warehouses Safe For Art Installations

a man walking in an art gallery

A pallet racking safety checklist isn’t the most artistic thing in the world, but it’s an essential part of any art installation that uses racking.

Art captures the public’s imagination because of the way it is so entirely separate from the rest of our lives. As a result, a safe art installation, or a safe art performance, can sound like something of a contradiction. However, the Oakland Ghost Ship fire is sad and tragic reminder that art installations and art performances in warehouses do need to be safe. Art might be the essence of life, but warehouse safety is a literally a matter of life and death.

A Pallet Racking Safety Checklist Is Informative, Not Restrictive

The best artists fall completely in love with their medium and their subject matter. Jackson Pollock may have been criticised for producing work that a four-year-old could do, but the man loved paint and knew a lot about it. So, just as a painter should know everything there is to know about paint, so too should an artist who is making a warehouse installation know everything there is to know about warehouses.

This includes gaining knowledge of pallet racking systems through studying a pallet racking safety checklist. By knowing the constituent parts of a pallet racking system and how to use one safely, an artist can learn what can be done with pallet racking, what can’t be done, and why. Knowledge of their medium is precisely why the best artists can do such amazing things. Banksy didn’t become one of the most famous graffiti artists in the world by accident; you can bet that they know an awful lot about spray paint.

Our Pallet Racking Safety Checklist is Completely FREE!

The basics of safety should be free, and that’s what our pallet racking safety checklist is. We do strongly recommend that the people using it have also taken our racking inspection training course, but there is absolutely no obligation to do so.

Other Things to Consider…

A pallet racking inspection checklist is important, but there are several other things to bear in mind for complete warehouse safety for art installations. HSE offers a comprehensive guide to warehouse safety, which is also free in PDF form, which we would recommend that all artists refer to for any element of their art installation.

We would also recommend a SEMA approved racking inspection for any racking installed in the exhibition. If you’re not installing racking, consider what you are installing and look into who would be most qualified to inspect it. This can be difficult for artists. After all, the point of many installations to push boundaries and defy definition, but you can never be too safe.

Go through all of your installation plans with as many safety experts as possible. Their suggestions might even act as inspiration. Remember, the aim isn’t to ruin your vision, but to make it safer. You want people attending your exhibition or performance to enjoy themselves, and a huge part of that is being safe.

Look to the Architects!

Safety and artistic expression can live together in harmony and architecture is a perfect example of that. Architecture is an industry which combines safe designs with beautiful designs to create beguiling buildings that are astonishing to look at but could also survive an earthquake.

Some of the most beautiful buildings in the world are also the safest, and the reason for this is that architects are the sort of artists who embrace the science and technology that goes into building. The same should be true of any artist using a warehouse for an installation.

Rather than seeing the warehouse and the safety precautions surrounding it as something holding you back, embrace it. Get to know exactly what makes a warehouse safe, get to know the science behind cantilever racking and pallet racking, and make the greatest and safest art installation there is.

Whether it’s for an art installation or anything else, contact Storage Equipment Experts for racking inspections services from the best SEMA approved racking inspector in the UK.

Racking Inspection Training & The Oakland Ghost Ship Fire

firemen fighting a warehouse fire

The Oakland Ghost Ship fire was a tragic event which should serve to remind all warehouse owners about the duty they have to keep people safe in their buildings.

The Oakland Ghost Ship fire was an awful event. 36 people lost their lives in the deadliest fire in the California city’s history. The tragedy underscores the importance of warehouse safety. This doesn’t just mean racking inspections training; it means a holistic approach to warehouse safety and to safety in general.

Would A Greater Racking Inspection Frequency Have Prevented the Tragedy?

As of February 2017, the investigation is still ongoing, so it is impossible to say what exactly caused the fire and who is ultimately responsible. However, what we do know is that the warehouse had not been inspected in three decades. As a warehouse converted for the purposes of art installation and artistic performances, racking inspections might not have been legally required. This is because, in the US, racking inspection frequency is not laid out by OSHA, and much of it is left to the warehouse owner’s discretion.

OSHA’s handbook on warehouse safety mentions racking inspections, but it does not state how often they should happen or even who should perform them. This vagueness was noted by journalist Travis Rhoden, who pointed out that while rack safety might seem pretty simple to the uninitiated, “it’s actually the source of much confusion among safety professionals — largely because there isn’t a clear-cut OSHA standard to help employers with many of the practical aspects of racking safety.”

It’s also unclear whether greater racking inspection frequency would have helped to stop the fire, as there are many other elements of a warehouse which also need to be inspected and maintained. Over the course of the last thirty years, they evidently were not.

Why Is Racking Inspection Training So Important?

Racking inspection training might not have stopped this tragedy, but there are other tragedies which could have been stopped by racking inspection training and a greater racking inspection frequency.

Our racking inspection training course is designed to make sure that racking collapses and other warehouse disasters don’t happen. An expert racking inspection at least once a year is extremely important but, for the day-to-day, warehouse owners need internal staff to inspect the warehouse and storage systems, too. HSE is clear on its recommendations about this, but it doesn’t define how often is enough for these internal, staff-performed racking inspections. The Canadian government is clearer on this front, recommending once a day.

OSHA’s vagueness might be frustrating for American warehouse owners, and HSE’s vagueness might be frustrating for British warehouse owners. However, you can never be too safe when it comes to warehouses. As a result, following Canada’s advice in the absence of advice from HSE or OSHA is a perfectly sensible thing to do. Listening to advice from around the world, while still sticking to the law laid out in your particular country, is the best way to achieve the optimum racking inspection frequency.

Would Complete Warehouse Safety Prevent All Accidents?

This is a matter of some debate. While SEMA president Matt Grierson believes in the possibility of a zero-accident workplace, the EU’s official health and safety board see the zero-accident workplace as “more a way of thinking rather than a numerical goal”.

At Storage Equipment Experts, we do believe in a zero-accident workplace. We do believe that racking inspection training and SEMA approved racking inspections are the best tools we have for making warehouses as safe as they possibly can be right now. However, to achieve a zero-accident future much more needs to be done.

It’s impossible to say what would have been enough to prevent the Oakland Ghost Ship tragedy. No country has the technology or the ability to create zero-accident warehouses just yet. Still, we can do our best to reduce warehouse fatalities to their lowest possible number in our lifetime.

Make sure that your warehouse is the safest it can be. Contact Storage Equipment Experts today for the best-quality racking inspection services in the UK.

The History of Cantilever Racking

a cantilever racking system

Safe cantilever racking and safe pallet racking are the cornerstones of any safe warehouse — and the history of cantilever racking is the history of that safety.

Storage Equipment Experts is one of the only racking inspection businesses in the UK to have a SEMA approved pallet racking inspector who has also completed the SEMA cantilever racking inspection course. As a result, our racking inspection training is second to none. Moreover, it also means that we’re very much interested in the history behind cantilever racking safety.

Cantilever racking is as old as the modern warehouse, but the technology and the science behind cantilever systems are actually much older. Cantilever racking and cantilever technology is a simple idea: a rigid structure is held in place by one vertical support and the balance of weight protruding either side.

Cantilever racking, and the history of safety that underpins it dates back to at least the 17th Century.

The Early Days of Cantilever Technology

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first use of the word “cantilever” was in 1667. As far as we know, this word would have had the same meaning that it does today. After all, cantilever technology is a very specific thing and there is nothing to suggest the meaning of this word changed over time.

The earliest known use of cantilever technology to build a bridge was in 1890 in Scotland. The Forth Bridge, once the longest cantilever bridge in the world, is still standing and is an excellent example of cantilever technology in use. In true Victorian style, there are some excellent images of Benjamin Baker using a human cantilever bridge to demonstrate how his cantilever principle would help to build a bridge.

The Rise of Cantilever Racking Systems

With the rise of warehouses during the Industrial Revolution, storage technology became more advanced, as businesses needed to store ever more elaborate items in ever greater quantities. In came cantilever racking. With its ability to store longer and more bulky materials in a much simpler way, cantilever racking gave warehouse owners another option.

However, as cantilever racking became more popular, warehouse safety and rack safety needed to account for this new technology. This is where SEMA and Storage Equipment Experts come in.

Racking Inspection Training for Cantilever Racking Systems

The SEMA Cantilever Rack Safety Awareness Course was first introduced in 2015. The course is designed to give SEMA approved racking inspectors the knowledge and the training they need to be able to inspect cantilever racking, as well as pallet racking. As of 2017, Storage Equipment Experts’ SEMA approved racking inspector (SARI) is one of the only SARIs in the UK to have completed the SEMA Cantilever Rack Safety Awareness Course, as well as the SEMA Approved Inspector Qualification.

It is for this reason that our racking inspection services (which include our much-praised racking inspection training course, along with expert inspections from a SEMA approved racking inspector) are such great value for money and so well received.

So, for racking inspection services that have the knowledge of racking inspection history behind them, contact Storage Equipment Experts. Our racking inspection services also include a free pallet racking safety checklist. We believe in passing on our knowledge whenever we can. Our checklist is a great start, a great way to learn about the basics of racking safety, but if you want more detail or if you want to learn about cantilever racking safety, we would recommend our racking inspection training course as well.

For complete peace of mind when it comes to racking safety, contact Storage Equipment Experts today for an expert racking inspection, racking inspection training, or a free pallet racking safety checklist.

What HSE Thinks Your Warehouse Should Do About Cold and Flu

a sick man in bed with a thermometer in his mouth

As the British winter rolls on, it’s worth asking what you can do about sniffly noses and sneezes at your warehouse.

Racking systems can be dangerous things to operate. They are huge metal structures that require expert installation, maintenance and inspection from a SEMA approved racking inspector. To work safely in a warehouse, you need to be at peak physical health, so what should you do if you are your staff are struck with the cold or flu?

Just as they do with rack safety inspections, HSE and the UK government have some actionable and practical advice about what you and your staff should do when cold and flu strike.

1. Use Common Sense

It’s strange when the government’s advice “to adopt a common sense approach”, but that is exactly its advice when it comes to the flu. As a result, most of what the government and HSE have to say about preventing cold and flu in the workplace will be things that a sensible person already knows to do. Even still, it’s worth reading up on it anyway.

2. Advise Sick Employees to Stay at Home

Don’t be a martyr and don’t be a hero. If your employees are feeling unwell, advise them to stay at home. If you are feeling unwell, you should stay at home, too. The NHS states that a cold can bring people down for seven days or more. Though the symptoms of the flu are much worse, it also usually goes within a week. If your staff need to take a week off because of a cold or the flu, the path of least resistance is to let them.

Losing that manpower might be detrimental to your warehouse in the short term but, in the long term, the cold or flu is less likely to spread. This will also save you time and money.

3. Leave the Rack Safety Inspections to Someone Else

Even if you feel like you’ve completely recovered from a cold or flu, it’s worth taking it easy when you come back into work. A key part of that would be to avoid heavy lifting, to start slow and to avoid any task where you need to be at your very best.

Rack safety inspections are exactly the sort of thing that, on your first day back, you should let another member of staff carry out. HSE’s stance on racking inspection frequency is that an expert rack safety inspection should be performed at least once a year by a SEMA approved racking inspector. Between these yearly inspections, there should be more regular pallet racking inspections by “technically competent” staff.

“Technically competent” usually refers to the amount of knowledge your staff has about racking inspections. To reach that level of competence, we would recommend rack safety inspection training. However, we would also recommend that staff who have been ill should not perform this sort of task. Research shows that, even after you’ve recovered from the physical effects of a cold or flu, your reaction time and other brain functions can remain impaired.

With that in mind, it’s worth giving more than one member of staff racking inspection training. In the UK, the exact frequency of internal rack safety inspections is left to the discretion of the PRRS (Person Responsible for Racking Safety). However, in Canada, the government recommends daily racking inspections from staff.

Whatever racking inspection frequency your PRRS decides on, it’s worth having several people (possibly even all of your staff) trained on racking safety inspections so that you are able to deal with days off from illnesses.

Make sure your workforce knows what to do when cold or flu hits your warehouse — and make sure that enough of your staff have received rack safety inspection training, so you can maintain a safe warehouse all year round. Also, be sure to contact Storage Equipment Experts for a rack safety inspection from a SEMA approved racking inspector.