Our first question this month asks for clarification on SEMA’s Rack Maintenance Course and the second is querying Documentation available for Cantilever Racking.

SEMA Rack Maintenance Course

Q. I am now booked onto a SEMA Rack Maintenance Course. Once I have completed this course am I then qualified to make the repairs to our racking system we have at our site.

A. The answer to your question is that ‘it all depends’ which is not really very helpful!

To try to explain a little more the fundamental requirement for doing such repair work is that you must be ‘competent’! To achieve or prove your competence you come on a SEMA training course to understand what needs to be done and how to do it. Because there is no practical element to this course you get a ‘certificate of attendance’ as SEMA have not seen you do the things for which you have been trained and there for cannot issue a ‘certificate of competence’.

Most delegates to the course are relaxed about this, as the course is well illustrated with photographs of such work in progress and most people, who are usually from a general maintenance background anyway, confirm that they are happy with the knowledge gained and will go away applying this knowledge and doing this work.

Plainly to certify someone as ‘competent’ it is necessary to have them do this work in a practical situation under observation and SEMA as policy do not do this.

Cantilever Racking Documentation

Q. We have stores for timber/timber products externally on cantilever racking systems which have been fabricated from hot rolled sections, following a ‘design’ (i.e. arrangement) similar to previously procured systems. We are concerned as to whether they are fit for purpose and we need structural advice.

I have become aware of your Association from HSE documentation and note that you have prepared a Code of Practice for the Design and Use of Cantilever Racking Systems, although I am not familiar with it. I would be grateful if you could advise whether you would consider this to be an appropriate reference for us, or if not suggest an alternative.

A. There are 2 documents that you might need to obtain. The first is the SEMA Code of Practice for the Design and Use of Cantilever Racking Systems which was originally published in 2004 but has undergone a few modifications in the light of experience since then.

The second is SEMA / FEM 10.2.09 The Design of Cantilever Racking published 2015.

This second document was written by FEM (Federation European de la Manutention) of which SEMA is a member and truthfully was based substantially on the initial document produced by SEMA. I also have to admit I chaired the drafting committee that produced this document!! Both documents are available from the SEMA office in West Bromwich.

Asking a European Committee to adopt what a UK organisation has produced without change is asking for a lot, so the SEMA / FEM European code amounts to about 120 pages as opposed to 30 for the SEMA one and while probably being much more correct and complex in its mathematics and its analysis methods, it gives similar answers to specific design cases as the SEMA one, (often producing less conservative, more economic/designs), so SEMA continues to publish its own code as a simple solution for simple problems.

You will likely require the services of a chartered structural engineer or person of similar standing to carry out the calculations necessary to confirm the integrity and carrying capacity of your structure.