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Hidden risks highlight importance of storage racking inspections

At a glance

  • These systems can provide sterling service, but can also be susceptible to accidental damage, overloading or poor specification
  • Racks can collapse with disastrous consequences
  • Zurich has more than 300 engineers across the country with the qualifications and experience required to work with companies to manage the safe operation of these structures

Storage racking systems are a permanent fixture in the day-to-day running of many businesses. Walk into any distribution warehouse, industrial unit, DIY centre or self-build furniture retailer anywhere across the country, and the tall, slimline structures stretch to the ceiling holding huge quantities of stock.

In the main, these storage racks provide sterling service but they can be susceptible to accidental damage, overloading or poor specification.

Impact by forklift trucks commonly undermines the structural integrity of racking systems, with even the slightest impact capable of causing structural weakness not always obvious to the naked eye. It is the often near invisible nature of defects that make John Graham, Senior Engineer at Zurich Engineering, recommend companies err on the side of caution when buying cheap, second-hand racking systems.

Controlling the risk

In addressing storage racking issues you should consider and make use of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ measures to prevent injuries.


  • Follow good installation design – layout, lighting, trucks, clearances etc. Provide driver training on the job and safety education
  • Use correct pallets that are in good condition
  • Lay adequate floor markings
  • Display loading/safety notices
  • Adhere to good housekeeping generally
  • Undertake preventative maintenance, including in-service inspection and repair



  • Physical barriers – e.g. Armco
  • Column guards
  • Guide rails

“Obviously there are good, well-respected suppliers of second-hand equipment but it is virtually impossible to know the history of these systems,” he said. “They might have an impact defect or have no indication for maximum permitted loading.”

Racking dangers

Damage, poor condition, overloading and poor specification can all cause racking to collapse with disastrous consequences.

At the very least, a collapse can cause interruption to the working day of a business and hit production targets; at worst, there can be a serious risk of injury to workers, or even death, as evidenced by a tragic case in Bradford.

Racking systems are regulated by the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 legislation, as well as Health and Safety Executive warehousing and storage guidelines.

These dictate that at each site where racking systems are in use there should be a nominated ‘person responsible for racking safety’ (PRRS) whose job it is to inspect and report damage and defects on systems. This person must also arrange for a ‘technically competent person’ to carry out inspections every 12 months and submit a written report with observations and proposals for any action deemed necessary.

Zurich has more than 300 engineers across the country, who have the qualifications and experience to meet the ‘technical competence’ criteria and are able to work with companies and specified PRRS to ensure the safe operation of these structures. Zurich has also issued guidelines on how risk associated with racking systems can be effectively managed.

Obviously there are good, well-respected suppliers of second-hand equipment, but it is virtually impossible to know the history of these systems. They might have an impact defect or have no indication for maximum permitted loading

John Graham, Senior Engineer at Zurich Engineering

“We are a UKAS-accredited Type A independent inspection body, which means our engineers hit the technical competence requirements,” said John, adding that “all of them boast a wide range of experience that can help clients satisfy the legislation while helping reduce downtime and accidents”.

Individually tailored reports

As part of the inspection regime, Zurich engineers will provide an individually developed report covering potential defects, areas of concern and recommendations for each installation. These are typically spread over 10-12 pages and include photographs and categorisation of defects where there is an imminent risk of collapse, through lack of signs, overstocking and loose bolts.

These reports are presented in hard copy to the client but are also available through Zurich’s online reporting tool, Crimson.

The Crimson portal enables clients to cross reference all reports carried out for them, ensuring they keep on top of inspection regimes and recommendations covered in the reports – and offers an auditable trail to keep companies up to date with their requirements.

Image © Getty

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