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Protecting your pallet racking from damage

Reducing or eliminating the possibility of damage to pallet racking is one of the most important aspects of warehouse safety. There are a number of complimentary approaches you should adopt to minimise damage.

Racking inspection requirements.
Regular inspection of racking is essential. The inspection should follow a hierarchical approach using 3 levels of inspection as follows:-

1. Damage inspection by warehouse operatives

2. Weekly inspections as a visual check from ground level

3. Regular inspection at least once a year by a ‘technically competent' person


The Person responsible for racking safety (PRRS).
HSG 76 identifies the need to appoint a ‘competent person’ be responsible for racking safety known as a PRRS (Person Responsible for Racking Safety). The PRRS will then be responsible for coordinating the various aspects of rack safety i.e.  ensuring that the racking is used, inspected and maintained in accordance with the appropriate regulations and guidelines.


Operator training.
This is unquestionably the most important factor in eliminating damage in the warehouse.  You, the user, must ensure that the warehouse staff are trained in the appropriate use and just as importantly limitations of the storage equipment. It is the responsibility of the user to maintain the racking in a safe condition. Drivers of materials handling equipment should receiver regular training.  We recommend a familiarisation programme for all new drivers.  This firstly allows you to acquaint the driver with the controls and features of your particular truck since as with cars the modern trucks now have many ‘whistles and bells’ and your new driver is unlikely to be familiar with all of them.  It also allows you to alert then to site specific conditions such areas with restricted headroom, one way systems, safety zones etc.  In addition it also allows you to assess their capabilities – not all drivers are equal and a lot of damage can be caused while the new driver acquaints themselves with your storage racks!  Many companies now put new drivers on ‘limited duties’ for a couple of weeks so they can be observed, or buddy them up with an experienced member of staff.  Both methods have shown clear benefits in reducing damage.


Racking maintenance.
Any damaged component noted in the inspection as requiring repair or replacement should be taken out of use in accordance with the damage code as dictated by the SEMA guidelines and repaired or replaced by suitably trained personnel as required.

Rack protection.
End frame protection is recommended for all end frames between a gangway and an aisle and also for all end frames between a drive through tunnel and an aisle in truck operated racking.  Elsewhere you should conduct a risk assessment and act accordingly. also do beware of retrofitting rack protection which inevitably reduce operating clearances and may as a result lead to an increase in damage.


Where freestanding protection is fitted it should allow adequate clearance off the frame component.  Fitted too close and it will restrict or prevent inspection of the concealed component, and also can lead to ‘knifing’ damage when the guard flexes under impact as some lighter duty guards are designed to do.  SEMA guidelines recommend a minimum clearance of 25mm with 40-50mm being preferred. And don't skimp on the fixings and always use good heavy duty fixings otherwise you will be forever replacing them!


There are an increasing number of ‘clip on’ type guards that affix directly to the rack upright.  There are a number of different types and designs and features but do beware that whilst offering the benefits of speed of fitting and their high visibility profile they also have significant drawbacks. 

  • They require regular removal to allow for your weekly and annual inspections.

  • They can lull drivers into a sense of false security by believing regular impacts with the racks are not a problem.

  • They can conceal damage that would have otherwise been immediately apparent.

  • They are not really suitable for exposed corners of storage racks where freestanding guards are the only suitable option.



HSG76 & Racking protection.


HSG 76 has a number of initiatives to minimise damage including the following sections on rack protection:

Clause 639 states: Where racking is likely to be struck by lift trucks and other vehicles, it should be protected. Generally, such damage is at the lower levels of the racking – use renewable column guards to minimise the risk of damage from accidental impact. Corner uprights in a run of racking are especially at risk and should be suitably provided with a protective device in a conspicuous colour.


Retrofitting upright protection devices to an existing aisle where they have never been provided can have the effect of reducing the available clearances for fork-lift truck manoeuvres, which can in some circumstances increase the amount of damage caused. Such situations need consideration on a case-by-case basis.


Unfortunately, clause 639 is being interpreted by many, especially some suppliers, as meaning that all racking uprights are likely to be hit and should therefore be protected by rack protectors and even that it’s the Law in the UK. This is not the correct interpretation of this clause.


Drivers must be reminded that guards and protection on racking are not to be used as positioning guides or back stops. Drivers must always leave clearance between pallet and guard.


Rack protection should be regarded as a ‘last resort’ means of avoiding rack damage and other methods of damage prevention should be considered before taking the decision to use rack protectors.

The protection of storage racks is not just dependant on physical protection, but also relies on a number of items including:

  • The specification

  • The design of the system

  • The installation

  • The defined responsibilities of the person responsible for racking safety

  • The training of the operatives

  • The inspection procedure

  • The maintenance procedure


Items to be considered should include:


  • The type of damage to be protected against

  • Whether other methods of protection are more appropriate

  • The type of protector required

  • Whether the protector will reduce clearances, potentially leading to more damage

  • Whether the protector may hide potentially serious damage

  • Whether the protector may lead to less reporting of damage

  • Whether the protector may result in operatives using the protector as a buffer



Where physical protection is considered it is vital to ensure that is is effective and appropriate and not just a sticking plaster approach that may lead to other problems further down the line.

Racking Inspection Rqiorment
Racking maintenance
Rack protection

HSG 76:  Warehousing and storage: A guide to health and safety

This is an excellent guide to best warehousing practice. It is written in conjunction with the Warehousing Health and Safety Forum - a joint committee with representation from trade unions, trade associations and employer bodies. Though in parts specific to specialist sites (eg temperature-controlled or dangerous substance storage) the majority of the book's focus applies right across the sector regardless of facility or size.
Many special attention topics, such as manual handling, musculoskeletal awareness, mechanical handling, site transport and working at height plus more, are covered in detail but the broader emphasis is on responsible warehouse practices, general prevention of avoidable risks and hazards and attendant information of accident and emergency procedures.

One of its key benfits is the HSE logo on the front which carries a lot of weight.  Managers and directors are far more inclined to accept guidance form this source which is generally highly regarded and seen as 'neutral' in such matters

Report Content

Content of a Racking Inspection report

All inspection reports are completed in accordance with SEMA guidelines.  Each rack inspection report is tailored to the individual application but typically comprises of two parts.  Firstly a damage report which records all damage found according to the SEMA damage recording codes and also an inspection report which deals in depth with the various issues picked up in the inspection along with relevant supporting detail and references.

What's in the Damage report?
The damage report details all damage recorded by location.  The report also provides damage summaries by component type and  SEMA risk type i.e. red, amber and green.  This allows you to prioritise remedial actions. It will also include a copy of any red risk notices issued on site. For reference it will also include a layout diagram and key component summaries.

  • ​Damage recorded by location

  • Damage summaries by SEMA damage code and type allowing:

  • Identification of urgent issues

  • Prioritisation of remedial action

  • ​Red risk notices for serious defects requiring immediate action

What's in the Inspection report?
The inspection report starts with an introductory cover and details the basis for the inspection identifying what is and also what is not covered by the inspection.  It then highlights key issues requiring action and damage summaries and then moves on to covers in detail points noted in the inspection. It concludes with appendices containing reference material and technical notes relevant to the inspection along with contact details for relevant bodies i.e. SEMA & HSE.

  • General introduction and basis of inspection

  • Damage summaries

  • Discussion of important issues noted during the inspection

  • Notes on any other relevant issues noted during the inspection

  • Comprehensive appendices providing:


(a) Essential reference material and technical notes

(b) Guidance on 'Best Practice'

(c) Advice on general warehousing issues

Pallet racking installation

Pallet racking installation

Racking should only be installed by competent persons in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions & SEMA guidelines. SEMA run training programmes for the SEIRS accreditation (Storage Equipment Installers Registration Scheme) to ensure the correct and safe installation of storage racks.

Racking should be erected on sound, level floors, capable of withstanding the point loading at each foot plate.

Where a racking design requires additional support i.e. to a building, only those building members that have been ‘proved’, by structural calculations, as able to resist the forces applied should be used. In such cases, the racking design should be compatible with the building layout. Ties should be manufacturer approved parts & correctly installed.

Double-sided runs should be connected and spaced using suitable back to back row spacers.  There are specific SEMA guidelines for this.

Floor fixings.

Where lift trucks or  mechanical handling equipment are in use, or there are other forces likely to overturn the storage racks the racking should be securely fixed to the floor. Floor fixings should be designed to carry a shear force of 5Kn and a tensile force of 3Kn.  Providing that the fixings satisfy these criteria then they would satisfy the SEMA Code.


Racks installed before 2010

For single sided runs all footplates require fixing.  For back to back racks where suitable row spacers are fitted provided the height to depth ratio is less then 6:1 only perimeter footplates require fixing.  Where the height to depth ratio exceeds 6:1 all footplates require fixing.  Where the height to depth ratio exceeds 10:1 additional support will be required and you should refer to the manufacturer for guidance.


Racks installed 2010 onward.  

All footplates require fixing.  Where the height to depth ratio exceeds 10:1 additional support will be required and you should refer to the manufacturer for guidance.

Aisles should be wide enough to ensure that mechanical handling equipment can be easily manoeuvred. Widths will depend very much on the type of equipment used, eg some require a 90° turn to load and offload, some remain parallel to the aisle and have forks at 90° to the direction of travel.

Beam locking pins should be fitted to all beam connectors both front & rear,to prevent accidental dislodgement of a beam of a beam.


Load signage.
Racking should have a clear unambiguous notice securely fixed to it stating the maximum bay load, load per level, maximum unit load, pitch to first and upper beam levels together with any necessary specified load configurations. The specification stated on the maximum load notice should never be exceeded. The weight of every palletised load should be determined before placing it in a storage rack. This is particularly important where different products are stored which may vary considerably in weight, or where a new line of product is brought into the warehouse for the first time. In some situations, it may not be necessary to establish the weight of each palletised load, if the racking system is designed and installed to meet the storage requirements of the heaviest palletised load in your company’s operation. 


Alteration to storage racks.  

Racking should never be adapted, altered, or modified (e.g. by welding) or components removed without first consulting the manufacturer. Before changing the position of storage levels on storage racks (as supplied), you should establish the design limitations of the new configuration and, where necessary, amend the safe working load notice. Adjusting the position of the first or second beam from the bottom is normally the most critical alteration, which always requires a check on the rated carrying capacity of the rack.

Load signage
Alteration to storage racks
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