The following point of view was received from a South African rack inspector, Anna Kosinskaya. Comments would be appreciated from our readers on this critical topic.
Before racking is used in its final form to store goods, it undergoes (or supposed to undergo) the following steps:
- Sourcing of material and manufacturing.
- Operational control
Deficiencies in any of the above can lead to racking failure, with consequential operational losses and in the worst state, injuries and fatalities.
The engineering code of conduct would enforce suitable design, even in the absence of a South African design code. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness, results in most (if not all) South African racking installations with no engineering exposure. Furthermore, the only statutory reference is an indirect reference in the Occupational Health & Safety Act. However, all the consequential risks can be mitigated in the form of operational control.
Due to the absence of any official South African standards regarding static pallet racking design, installation, use, inspection and maintenance, the racking manufacturing industry in South Africa is not controlled. The end user, or his insurance are very often not aware of the life span limitations, scheduled inspections required and loading capacity limitations applicable to racking. Except for the provisions made in the OHS Act, the racking industry in South Africa is an unregulated industry.
Needless to say, a lack of regulations and/or awareness puts static racking at the top of the list of a critical item within physical asset portfolio of the organisation.
The engineering code of conduct would enforce suitable design, even in the absence of a South African design code. However, the lack of awareness, results in most (if not all) South African racking installations with no engineering exposure. Furthermore, the only statutory reference in the Occupational Health & Safety Act, Act 85 of 1993 (OHSAct), is found in the General Safety Regulations 8 (GSR8) which is very general with no specific reference to issues of risk assessment or inspections. However, GSR2 states that every employer and every user of machinery shall make an evaluation of the risk attached to any condition or situation which may arise from the activities of such employer or user. Based on this, OHSAS 18001 Health and Safety Standard require that an organization shall implement procedures to cover situations where the absence could lead to deviations from the OH&S policy and objectives.
In the mature state, the racking industry is mostly based on full scale test data as opposed to design code prescriptions. Until such time, it is suggested to continue education of the end user on the safe operation and maintenance of the static pallet racking using internationally recognised standards, such as the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) based in the UK and FEM.
Appointment of the engineering specialist to assist to design and commission suitable racking system is essential. Planed inspections, identification and classification of the damages, root cause analyses and data collection, would form part of such education/training within the organisation.
Following typical examples illustrating some of the issues related to the racking installation and utilization:
The unregulated nature and absence of appropriate engineering in the world of racking systems is further compromised by the counter intuitive risk management requirements postulated by all the international racking codes. A comparison between conventional structural design and racking structural design illustrates important and sometimes unexpected deviations in warehouse risk management. The table below compares the differences in approach between conventional structural design and racking structural design:
The differences between conventional structures and racking systems clearly illustrate an increased risk management burden on warehouse operators. The following controls have to be implemented by the warehouse management:
- Strict loading regime to ensure the specified load is never exceeded.
- Controlled operating conditions and lifting equipment to ensure no operational loads are imposed on the racking system, unless so specified by the end-user.
- Immediate unloading of the racking system if damage occurs.
- Immediate unloading of the racking system if geometric tolerances are exceeded.
- Prohibitions on unauthorised alterations
- Continues training of the operators of the mechanical equipment.
- Appointment of the racking and shelving safety officer who will be responsible for training of the warehouse operational personnel, and day to day inspections of the racking.
- Storage equipment must be checked regularly for safety and specifically for any damages that may have been occurred.
- Records must be maintained of all the damages or any safety problem found.
For more info contact Anna Kosinskaya – Engineering Asset Manager