Taking pallet handling safety into your own hands

Plain Pallets on 17 April 2019

How to safely handle pallets

Mishandling pallets can lead to more than just the odd splinter. Pallets are heavy, solid and awkward to move, presenting a significant health and safety risk for employees. In this article, we advise you on safe pallet handling, what to look out for at work, and other occupational health and safety (OH&S) points to consider.

If your pallets are damaged or broken, look no further than Plain Pallets. We can  design, build and suuply the right pallet to suit your business, no matter the industry or application.

Things to consider

Pallets move the world. Since the Second World War, they have become essential to manufacturing and industrial businesses. Here are some things you may not know about the humble pallet:

  • 80% of commercial goods find themselves on a pallet at some point.

  • Over 500 million pallets are manufactured every year to replace damaged ones.

  • Pallets vary in design, ranging in weight anywhere between 9kg and 32kg.

  • Due to their heavy, international use, timber pallets  often shed debris.

  • Most timber pallet are treated with heat and chemicals for sanitary reasons.

Pallets are vital, but potentially dangerous materials. However, if handled correctly and safely, neither you, your employees, or your workplace will have any issues.

Correct use

There's only a few correct ways to approach pallet safety in the workplace. Worksafe Victoria has some great pointers for businesses and individuals using pallets day to day.

  • Ensure pallets are stable and balanced when loading. This puts less pressure on vulnerable parts.

  • Store pallets flat in easily recognisable places, no taller than shoulder height.

  • Use protective equipment like gloves and hi-vis wear when using pallets.

  • Ask for a helping hand when manually lifting vacant pallets.

  • Make sure you have first aid resources to deal with pallet-inflicted injuries.

Another great introductory guide to pallet handling comes from FreightExchange, which offers guidance on different methods for safer and more stable pallet packing.

There are some things that you should never do with pallets:

  • Never use pallets to lift people. This is the easiest way to cause accidents.

  • Avoid walking on pallets, unless you want a sprained ankle or knee.

  • Never store empty pallets end on endThis is a broken shin waiting to happen.

  • Never use a damaged pallet, unless you are building cheap furniture.

Pallets are hard. Human bodies are not. The simplest way to exercise pallet safety is to remove human contact entirely.

Forklifts and jacks

warehouse worker using pallet jack

The easiest way to prevent workplace injuries is to get pallets off the ground and stored away. This is a job best performed by mechanised workplace vehicles like forklifts and pallet jacks. While they are the safest way to move pallets, jacks and forklifts need their own special considerations.

  • Ensure operators have proper safety gear like steel capped boots.

  • Always keep forks in the lowest possible position when travelling.

  • To prevent tip overs, never overload a forklift, and ensure the load is centred on the forks.

  • Pallet racks are not the strongest structures, so be wary when storing pallets on them.

  • Machinery training courses are inexpensive and require little downtime.

Efficiency should not come before safety. Don't risk heavy fines, injury and death. Only allow trained and licensed employees to operate heavy machinery in the workplace.

Routine inspections

Just like any heavy duty equipment involved in business and industry, pallets are prone to wear and tear. No matter how well reinforced their construction is, it's important that pallets are regularly inspected for defects to ensure they aren't compromised.

  • Keep an eye out for loose nails, splinters, cracks or weaknesses.

  • Put compromised pallets aside, or discard them completely.

  • Unattended pallets make great havens for pests like birds, bugs and rodents.

A keen eye shouldn't just stop at the pallets. Employee practices also need to be looked at every now and again. As with all modern workplace health and safety practices, it is imperative that proper pallet use be revisited at least once a year.

Teaching others

training staff to use forklift

A workplace is only as safe as its least trained employee. Most of the points detailed above may seem like common sense, but it never hurts for a quick workplace health and safety refresher.

  • Design a thorough course around proper pallet handling for all new and existing employees.

  • Hire an Occupational Health and Safety consultant to advise on proper techniques.

  • Ensure employees are receiving adequate supervision so that standards don't slip.

Every workplace is different, and there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Teach people proper operational techniques based on your workplace, the materials you work with, and the type of pallets you have in stock. Remember, always put safety first.

Contact Plain Pallets

The easiest way to ensure that your pallets are up to scratch is to take stock of what you have. At Plain Pallets, we build new and used pallets. If you need something custom made, we can design the perfect pallet to suit your needs. We also supply plastic, and steel pallets.

No matter what you're using it for, we have the right pallet for your business. Visit our website or get in touch with our friendly team on 03 9545 7344.