A Hub of Expertise

By Steve Cowen, chairman, SEMA Technical Committee 

Technical excellence has been the very essence of SEMA’s mission since its inception in 1968. The very structure of the association’s DNA is technically inter-linked and so the conformity of each group and every member to a set of measurable standards has generated the industry safety model. 

Approved and adopted without compromise, through technical standardisation, SEMA has led on  

best safety practice and many of its outputs are adopted nationally, across Europe and the world over.  

SEMA’s definitive work is formalised into a set of codes and guides that are certainly not just for technicians and engineers but are of direct relevance to all those involved with the management and safety of warehouse operations. Together with training, these “codes of honour” as we like to call them, provide a framework for the safe design, installation and use of storage equipment manufactured and supplied by our members. We currently have over 75 technical publications to our credit – including the box set of Tool Box Talks for practical use by installers on site. 

Meeting Health and Safety law via PUWER is central to SEMA’s mission. PUWER stands for the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (1999 in Northern Ireland). The regulations deal with the work equipment and machinery used every day in workplaces and aims to keep people safe wherever equipment and machinery is used at work. 

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SEMA’s design codes 

SEMA’s Technical Committee has developed a series of design codes covering both static and other pallet racking types together with formal publications for both low and high-rise static steel shelving. Its codes also cover mobile racking, mobile shelving systems together with cantilever racking systems and the design and use of racking protection.  

 SEMA has also authored two codes with respect to installation. In terms of installation tolerances, we do not live in a perfect world. Whilst we strive for perfection, we still have to consider imperfections. When we design racking, we understand the floor will not be perfectly flat, nor will the uprights be perfectly vertical. Therefore, installers and designers work to the same tolerances which are set out in SEMA’s Tolerances Code which gives limits to be achieved by the installers so that the rack will operate correctly and carry intended loads.  

The SEMA Installation Code gives installation guidelines for installers of different types of racking and shelving and provides a foundation for SEIRS, the Storage Equipment Installers’ Registration Scheme. See pages 12 and 13. 

To support ongoing safe use of storage equipment, SEMA publishes two further codes which provide information on how to use the equipment safely. Initially, a very brief overview of a rack’s capabilities were shown on the Load Notice which today continues to be fixed to the end of a racking run. SEMA has always recognised the importance of providing information on the dos and don’ts of using storage equipment and, going back as far as the 1980s, information was issued in the Users Code, now known as The Code for the Use of Static Pallet Racking. 

SEMA has continually monitored the storage environment and as time went by, it became clear that a code on Load Notices was needed. The Load Notice Code prescribes a layout for the load notice signage and the information that should be included. Today, it includes a list of warnings, prohibitions and mandatory behaviours as well as loading data and some administrative information in order to comply with the Safety Signs and Signals Regulations. In 2008, SEMA’s Load Notice Code was (effectively) adopted across Europe in EN15635. 

Secondly, the SEMA “Code of Practice for The Use of Static Pallet Racking” is normally known as the Users’ Code. First published for guidance on racking, a great deal of the content is also applicable to other products. Outlining responsibilities for both supplier and user, it discusses how to specify, detailing the information that needs to flow between the user and their supplier. On pallets and trucks, there’s basic information about the loading and unloading sequence for various pallet racking systems and suitability of pallets. It also covers basic details on the storage area itself, including the floor, highlighting some pitfalls to avoid. 

Functioning Life Cycle of a Rack 

The end-user operational “need” leads to the choice of racking as part of the storage solution. Initially the layout of the racking is determined based on the throughput requirement of the warehouse. Throughout the design process, SEMA codes are used, and this helps to ensure that the racking can work correctly with the other equipment and fulfil the desired requirement. Once the layout is arrived at, technical specialists ensure that the rack can withstand the applied loads. In manufacture, parts are produced to meet these design requirements. In use, the rack is designed to fulfil a particular purpose. So, if used incorrectly it will not function correctly, or worse, could be extremely dangerous.  

In-use, monitored through a robust inspection regime, the rack needs to be used correctly and maintained in the condition that the designer intended throughout its life. This is where the SEMA Rack Safety Awareness (RSA) course and SEMA Approved Inspectors both play key parts. The RSA course is provided for users so that they can check their racking, so damage is identified and corrected on a continuing basis. SEMA inspectors can provide annual inspections to identify damaged items for replacement to keep the racking in good order. 

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