Access & Material Storage

When considering access for materials and the safe handling and storage of it, certain criteria should be examined. Consider the first question to arise, how is this brought to the storage location and what equipment is required to safely handle it? In many cases it may be as simple as shrink-wrapped material arriving on standard pallets. However, what constitutes a delivery?


In some cases, a delivery may be considered complete when it arrives on a curtain sider lorry and the screen is drawn back to allow access for a client forklift. In others it may be removed on a tail-lift and delivery is complete when this reaches floor level for access by a client forklift or pallet truck. In other cases, the size of material handled may require the availability of a side-loader forklift or may require removal means of lifting equipment and accessories.

In each case it must be confirmed who has what responsibility for the offloading and subsequent handling of material. This will also require consideration of the suitability of the staff receiving the goods. Forklift training and certification is required for each different type of forklift. A worker with a counterbalance licence is not qualified to operate a side-loader. Similarly, where a lift is undertaken by crane or using an array of lifting equipment including lifting chains, eyebolts, etc. a written plan devised and supervised by a competent person is necessary and the operation should be carried out by trained, competent slingers. The equipment or combination of accessories must also be adequately rated to deal with the load in terms of centre of gravity or configuration of slings.

So, the correct mix of suitable equipment, competent persons, adequate supervision and sufficient planning must be in place. Lifting equipment must also be subjected to Thorough Examination by competent persons in line with a Written Scheme of Examination or at default intervals (annual for principal items, 6 monthly for accessories or where man-lifting is involved).


The next part of the consideration involves access. Many storage / manufacturing facilities will receive what may be called “standard” items or packages of material. However, as processes change over time or manufacturing moves to different products it will require consideration of the space required for material access. At its simplest level, will the material fit in the access paths and doorways into the facility? Increasing size may be catered for, to some extent, by changes in the method of movement or the equipment used but eventually the stage may be reached where alterations to the premises are required and this must identified and carried out in a timely manner rather than when it has become critical or an incident has brought home the need for change.

Separate access must be maintained for staff rather than them using material transport openings and passageways. Such staff doors must open safely and have a protected zone to allow users to pass through then check vehicle movement before moving on. Typical protective means include doors opening onto a concrete plinth with safety barriers erected to create a safe standing place. Where necessary, adequate lighting must also be deployed to ensure pedestrians and vehicles are visible and good lines of sight must be ensured.


The next factor to be considered is the storage of the materials received. This may involve a combination of the use of floor space and racking. Where racking is used the specification should be decided in conjunction with the supplier in order to ensure that it provides adequate load capacity for the items foreseeably stored on it. The layout of the racking should then be planned, allowing suitable space for both access and manoeuvring of lifting vehicles in the gangways. Once decided, the racking should be secured to the floor and / or structure and erected. It may be prudent to consider the line of sight offered to the vehicle driver when moving material on higher levels. If a proper view of the load is not possible it may be necessary to use specialised fitments such as cameras or reduce the height of racking to a reasonable level.

When installed, the racking should have the load posted on each set, giving the maximum load per set of cross-members and also per set of uprights. Climbing for access to smaller items must be prohibited and, if access for handling is required, suitable equipment provided. The original pins in the racking must not be substituted by nuts and bolts or by welding. Such alterations may interfere with the behaviour of racking in an incident of failure or collision by forklift and give rise to whole sections “unzipping” rather than the collapse of individual bays. As with all work equipment, racking must be maintained in safe order. This will require periodic inspection to identify damage or missing pins or signage and the subsequent repair of such damage, if necessary by a competent agent such as the installer.

Some items may be so heavy or bulky that storage on racking is not possible. In this case, adequate floor space must be allocated for safe storage. This must not interfere with designated walkways, crossing points or fire escape routes and doors. It may be necessary to have a contingency plan for additional storage if suitable space is used up.

General Safety & Maintenance

Generally manufacturing locations are better designed for the welfare of staff compared to warehouses. A reasonable temperature should be maintained but this may prove challenging. If this cannot be achieved alternative measures should be considered such as warm clothing or a hot-room with enhanced break allowances. PPE should also cater for high visibility and other residual needs. Protective footwear may be likely. Adequate lighting must also be provided to cater for job picking and general vision needs such as reading signage and noting vehicles at distance. Adequate welfare facilities must also be provided.

The premises themselves must be maintained in good order. Deterioration can lead to irregular surfaces leading to increased slip or trip risks and jarring of travelling forklifts causing movement towards racks or disturbance of loads. The floor, particularly, must be kept in good repair. To assist, speed limits should be set and imposed and seat belts worn.

Certain materials may be stored which are safe in their normal condition but may generate risks if damage arises. Specifically, the storage of potentially harmful chemicals or substances should be considered and any spillage / emergency procedures implemented by means of staff training.

The arrival and movement of vehicles around the premises must also be controlled. Again, speed limits must be imposed and procedures communicated regarding arrival, parking up, reporting to a designated person and guidance concerning how and where to proceed to an unloading area. The traffic management regime must extend to this area, with the creation of designated walkways and elimination of unnecessary persons from the area. Procedures covering unloading should also deal with “park up” precautions designed to prevent premature departure before unloading is fully completed.

There are many legislative requirements that relate to warehouses which generally apply to most workplaces such as electrical testing, first aid, etc. and each of these would need to be considered in detail.


Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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