First up this month we look at how long should be taken after racking damage has been identified to effect a repair. Our second question looks at fire safety regulations and planning approval when looking to install a mezzanine floor.

What is the timescale for effecting repairs

Q. Could clarification be given as to the timescale for effecting repairs to racking after identification of damage? The current SEMA guidelines state that the racking should be unloaded within four weeks after initial identification in the case of damage within the Amber category but does not state that the repairs have to be carried out within that period. This may in many cases prove to be impractical as many suppliers lead times are in excess of four weeks. Also providing the racking is not re-loaded can repairs be carried out in a timescale to suit the client?

A. Racking should not be allowed to continue in use indefinitely in a damaged state and therefore the restriction that if it was not repaired within a given time it moved from an amber risk item to a red risk was one which in effect means that the rack needs to be offloaded in that particular area. There are long term storage situations where pallets are not moved for months at a time and in such circumstances the rack could continue in use until the position was emptied perhaps 10 months later, just before the next season’s storage. In this situation there would be no incentive to carry out a repair promptly and allowing a damaged rack to continue in use for perhaps 10 months was felt to be unreasonable.

Conversely there is nothing that can require a building owner to repair damage when perhaps he has not the financial ability to carry out this work or for other reasons does not wish to have it done immediately. What must be done in such circumstances is to make sure that there is no chance that the rack can be reloaded until the repair is carried out. In this regard it is no different from a faulty fork truck that is stored at the back of the warehouse, with the keys and battery removed, for repair or disposal at some future time. Racking is a lot more difficult to isolate to ensure it is not used again.

While not in any of the codes this time restriction might be viewed as a little flexible, e.g. possibly few would object if the repair took 6 weeks to put into effect due to a difficulty in obtaining replacement materials.  However, if it took 6 months the question would be asked as to whether there was any intention of carrying out the repair and if a price were being put on the safety of the employees working in the area.

Another aspect is that if management are not seen to be reacting quickly to the damage then operatives can be forgiven for concluding that the damage was not all that serious and they can go on damaging the rack to that degree since no one does much about it.  Hopefully this is not the message that any responsible warehouse manager would wish to be inferred.

Mezzanine Floor, planning approval & fire safety measures

Q. Our mezzanine floor covers an area of 28.95 square metres and is freestanding. We were told by our landlord that we need building control application for the structure but when we went to our local Council we were told that we did not!

Can you please advise us of the following queries?

Do we need approval?

Do we need fire proofing on the underside of the floor (mezzanine floor being used as a store area)?

Do we need smoke & fire detecting on the underside (we have fire protection on the main roof)?

A. We would agree with your landlord that Building Control Approval would almost certainly be required for this type of structure and are slightly puzzled as to why you have been given contrary advice by your local Council. It is possible that your question was misunderstood and the advice you were given was that you did not need Planning Approval (a completely different process) for such a structure.

We would expect that any mezzanine floor would need to satisfy the requirements of the building regulations in order to produce a safe structure for the application that it is designed to satisfy. This can be done by either the traditional route of submitting detail designs to the Building Control Department in your local authority who will, for a fee, check the calculations and liaise with the local fire brigade regarding any special requirements of means of escape, fire protection or fire alarms necessary for your particular set of circumstances.

More recently as an alternative there are certain Consulting Engineers who, again for a fee, will carry out this work including the liaison with the fire officer and will certify compliance of the completed structure with the building regulations. Normally such companies work closely with particular suppliers of mezzanine floors.

It is also possible to place an order with a supplier giving them the responsibility of obtaining the necessary compliance with the building regulations as this can be done by either the occupier of the building or by the builder of the floor. In your circumstances as you are unfamiliar with the processes it would probably be sensible for you to contract this responsibility to the builder of the floor.

With regard to your specific questions, Yes, you do need approval

You will need to take advice from your local fire officer (who normally will only deal through the local authority or a consultant) regarding any fire protection, fire alarms or smoke alarms necessary. Sometimes none of these are necessary on small floors depending on the means of escape, the number of people working on the floor and other issues.

A number of SEMA members would be happy to quote you for this type of work and you can obtain contact details through our web site. SEMA is delighted to be working with WLN on the storage Question and Answer Column which is published in WLN on a monthly basis. On the WLN website is a list of previously published columns which we hope you find useful.

Please note that SEMA Users Club members also have access to a comprehensive range of additional storage related questions and answers.

SEMA Technical Enquiries

We hope you find the above articles, and those in previous editions, interesting. If you have a query send it to us by fax or email and we will do our best to have it answered by one of our technical experts.

SEMA Rack Safety Awareness and Inspection Courses

SEMA runs a one-day safety course on Rack Safety Awareness and Inspection. These courses are aimed at end users, giving an in-depth look at the need for inspections, how to conduct an assessment and what actions to take when this is completed. These courses are normally held at the SEMA headquarters but arrangements can be made to hold them at the delegates’ premises.

SEMA Approved Rack Inspectors Qualification

This qualification is aimed at professionals who conduct rack surveys as an integral and significant part of their duties. It involves delegates in undertaking an in-depth SEMA Course, together with an examination and practical assessment. CPD will be an important part of the qualification, demonstrating to end users that SEMA Approved Inspectors maintain a high professional standard.

SEMA Publications

SEMA publishes a number of documents including Codes of Practice, ‘Guides’ and European documents – all of which are available from our Office. For further information on these documents contact SEMA or visit our website, and click on ‘Codes of Practice’.


SEMA runs a USERS Club designed to be of benefit to purchasers and users of storage equipment. Members receive newsletters, access to specialised events and discounted rates on publications and codes of practice. For further information contact SEMA.

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