The “Onion Skin” Approach To Rack Inspection


In 2017, the Storage Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (SEMA) refreshed its rigorous approach to rack inspections as rack collapses can and do cause severe injury and sometimes even fatalities. There are three main reasons for a rack inspection:

  1. To check the condition of storage handling equipment for health and safety reasons and to identify repair work which may be needed.

  2. To provide a safe place of work and to ensure that work equipment is suitable – to meet health and safety regulations at work.

  3. To verify that the storage handling equipment has been installed correctly.

It is important to note that an inspection is not a substitute for deficient, defective or absent specification, design, installation, training or maintenance.

Appointment of a Competent Person for Racking Safety

The warehouse health and safety management team needs to appoint a competent person for racking safety, who should take responsibility for maintaining safe operation of the warehouse storage handling equipment, maintain rack inspection and maintenance records. They need to have the skills necessary to inspect damages, report and analyse damages data, identify trends, propose/implement necessary action and, most importantly, have the authority to implement action.

The “Onion Skin” Approach

This approach consists of three layers with three overlapping levels of inspections.

  1. Immediate or daily inspection.

  2. Regular or weekly/monthly inspection.

  3. Expert or annual inspection.

Note that there are two very different types of rack inspection reports. Contact us for more information regarding the differences.

Immediate (daily) Inspection

This inspection requires the reporting of all damages and areas of concern to the appointed competent person, who will evaluate the seriousness of the storage handling equipment. Warehouse staff are often in the best position to notice if racking has been damaged and they should be encouraged to report damages immediately. Reporting should follow documented procedures with records kept on the action taken following the reports. If you want effectiveness remember the KIS principle – Keep It Simple. 

Contact Us for a free KIS storage handling equipment report –

Regular (weekly/monthly) Inspection

The competent person should ensure documented inspections are undertaken by a suitably trained individual or outside contractor. Frequency should be weekly/monthly or at other intervals based on a risk assessment of the operating conditions of the warehouse and preferably at a quiet time. This inspection should check that safe loading notices are up, damages to beams, uprights, column protects are in place and correct use is being followed, and if there are any missing components.

Expert (annual) Inspection

The expert inspection should be carried out by a technically trained and competent person (preferably outsourced). The frequency of the inspection depends upon a risk assessment, but is usually yearly. A documented report will identify damages and give guidance and comment on other warehouse activities.

On the regular and expert inspections, the inspector will use specific measuring equipment, work in a logical, systematic way, and record results of the inspection so that others can act on the information. Both these inspections are normally a visual inspection from ground level, so working at heights shouldn’t be necessary.

Inspection results will be classified using a Red/Amber/Green traffic light reporting system.  It will confirm that damaged components are being used and replaced as required and will report, if this is not so. The report will also identify repetitive damages and propose solutions/modifications to avoid or minimise further repetitive damages. Vitally, it will notify of any Red Risks present.

SEMA recommend that a risk assessment and method statement for inspection is incorporated into company procedures.

Cluttered aisles make any sort of inspection difficult!

SEMA risk levels

Risk Levels Definitions

SEMA risk levels are categorised and have been established for almost 40 years.  Essentially, the same approach is used elsewhere in Europe, Africa, and in other codes around the world.

Red Risk

Areas where a high level of damage is identified which warrants immediate offloading and isolation of the storage handling equipment until repair work is carried out. In magnitude this is greater than twice the SEMA limit.

Amber Risk

Areas where the damage is sufficiently severe to warrant remedial work but not sufficiently severe to warrant the immediate offloading of the storage handling equipment. In magnitude this is above the SEMA allowable limit but less than twice that limit. Once the pallet positions in this area are emptied, they should not be refilled until the repairs are carried out. If repairs are not affected in four weeks, then the Amber Risk item automatically becomes a Red Risk item!

Green Risk

Areas where damage is present, but it falls within the SEMA limit and should be recorded for further consideration at the next inspection. Green does not mean acceptable damage. The damages should be monitored and awareness is required of other items, which may also reduce the safety factor.