The SEMA Safety Conference 2015: Harm Reducing, Racking Inspection Training, and Drone Flying

This year’s SEMA Safety Conference was a chance for different representatives from across the world of health and safety to talk about their views. The event, held on November 5th, was attended by representatives from two separate government bodies, the health and safety executive (HSE) and the health and safety laboratory (HSL), as well as representatives from SEMA and from the private sector.

Harm reducing and Matt Grierson’s ideal workplace

When Matt Grierson took over as SEMA president in 2015, he said that he wanted to make the British warehousing, logistics, and construction industry a “zero-accident” place to work. This idea was something that was supported by many of the speakers at the conference. During his talk on accident reporting, Richard Heath argued that studying the reasons behind accidents, as well as near misses, is key to the creation of a zero-accident workplace. Stewart Howard echoed these beliefs with his presentation on accident investigation.

Rob Shaw spoke against the indifference some businesses feel towards preventing slips, trips, and falls. He claimed that some businesses think, “Well, what can you do? it’s part of operating a business”. His view is that this is wrong and that there is a lot that businesses can still do to prevent slips, trips, and falls. Beyond the conference, Shaw has written quite a lot on this subject.

Adding to these voices on harm reduction were Nina Day, who spoke about how health and safety can make supply chains safer by reducing accidents on the road, and Neil Sheehan. Sheehan, who was nominated for Asda’s Act With Integrity Award, spoke about warehouse safety from the point of view of private enterprises. He talked about what “end users” can, should, and are doing to reduce harm in the workplace.

Racking inspection training and the importance of SARIs

Steve Cowen talked about why SEMA Approved Racking Inspectors (SARIs) are needed for warehouse safety. He presented the room with pictures of different racking structures and asked for the audience to spot the dangers. Though most people were able to spot the obvious problems, those without racking inspection training missed some of the subtler dangers. Cowen’s argument was that this is why we have SARIs: because sometimes the less obvious problem is actually the most dangerous one.

Drone flying and possible futures for workplace safety

Throughout the event, different speakers hinted towards how the future of warehouse safety might look. Craig O’Dea talked about how new technologies are already changing the way we manage warehouses, and many other speakers expressed hope that the future workplace would be safer as a result of these new technologies. Steve Cowen agreed with the sentiment and spoke of a future where racking inspections could be done via drone cameras. He admitted that there were many legal and logistical things to consider but, overall, he believed the idea to be a sound one. Currently, he stated, some SARIs may refuse to inspect racking if they feel that the system is too dangerous to get near to. Of course, they have every right to do this, but with a drone this issue ceases to exist. Only time will tell if the future of workplace safety is one of drone flying and zero-accidents.

About the author

Justin O'SullivanJustin O’Sullivan is a SEMA approved racking inspector, safety writer, and the owner of Storage Equipment Experts Ltd. His business specialises in performing pallet racking inspections and racking inspection training across the UK.