Welcome to our quarterly Back of Store feature, looking at warehousing and logistics for the UK supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains, with stories from the leading suppliers of equipment and services for this crucial part of the retail operation.

chazThe back of store is a fast moving environment, making a major contribution to the productivity of individual stores and the company as a whole. The enormous volume of goods makes this a potentially dangerous area for staff to work in. Two key safety factors are the forklift trucks and the storage systems. The HSE has published guidance on the crucial subject of forklift trucks http://www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/lift-trucks/

This extends to such essentials as managing lift trucks, lift truck training, voluntary accreditation schemes for forklift training, thorough examination and repairs to the fork arms of forklift trucks. In the HSE’s stark words, “lift trucks are particularly dangerous in the workplace.” On average lift trucks are involved in about a quarter of all workplace transport accidents. These accidents are often due to poor supervision and a lack of training. The HSE’s Approved Code of Practice and guidance sets the minimum standard of basic training people should receive before they are allowed to operate certain types of lift truck – even if it’s only occasionally.

Whether or not there is a future for brick and mortar retail, the warehouse will remain a key part of a retailer’s estate for the foreseeable future, according to Jonathan Bennett, Chairman of the SEMA Distributor Group. It’s been estimated that there’s a racking collapse every week in the UK. Fortunately most collapses don’t cause serious injury or fatality, but prosecution under corporate manslaughter legislation remains a distinct possibility.

Racking is perfectly safe as long as it’s correctly designed, for example to the SEMA Codes of Practice. Subsequently, some major causes of collapse are bad installation, forklift damage, corrosion and lack of maintenance. Warehouse staff need to be ‘safety aware’ and a protocol in place to report damage immediately, there should be regular inspections by a suitably qualified individual and audits by an external qualified rack inspector to undertake a regular audit. Faulty racking should be replaced with the manufacturer’s correct replacement parts using qualified installers.

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