Pallets, which come in a variety of materials including wood and plastic, are a common material used in manufacturing warehouses, grocery stores and retailing industries. Pallets typically allow products and inventory to be moved from one location to another. While pallets may seem like a common material to be used for these types of jobs, they also carry with them safety risks for the workers who use them. The Bureau of Labor Statisticsfound that in 2010, 5.2% of workers who were in the transportation and warehousing industry (which includes working with pallets) had work-related injuries. Many of the risks of using pallets relate to their size and weight, which can be upwards of 70-80 pounds each. As the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health does not recommend workers to lift more than 50 pounds, you can see why materials of this weight can be dangerous for workers.
Wood Pallet Safety
Wood pallets should always be handled with care. Wood pallets should be examined closely before being picked up to check for protruding nails or splinters that can cause hand injury on workers not wearing gloves. For this reason, gloves should always be worn by employees as another pallet safety tip. Workers should also not walk over or on top of wood pallets due to the same risks. Wood pallets become weakened over time, so if you have pallets that have been heavily used, they should be disposed of.
Pallet Jack Safety Tips
Pallet jacks, which have the capacity to hold several hundred pounds of materials, are machines used for moving large pallets and their heavy materials. Pallet jacks are made of steel and even while empty, are extremely heavy and therefore dangerous. If you use pallet jacks for moving pallets in your warehouse or grocery store storage facility, and should take extra caution when operating pallet jacks.
- Manual Pallet Jack Safety – Manual pallet jacks use more physical endurance as the worker has to use his own strength in order to operate them. This increases the risk of physical injury including slipping, tripping, repetitive motion injury, or physical harm from moving the wrong way. It’s important that workers keep safety in mind when operating a manual pallet jack, including keeping a slow and steady speed while operating them.
- Electric Pallet Jack Safety – While electric pallet jacks often easier loading, unloading, and maneuvering, the mechanism also has a variety of risks. Workers who are operating electric pallet jacks need to be well trained on the machinery, and understand fully how to operate it. Without this knowledge, a worker could possibly harm themselves or others with the pallet jack. Every worker operating an electric pallet jack should be aware of their surroundings before operating it, and be sure others are keeping a safe distance away.
Pallet Storage Safety
It’s also important for employees working with pallets to understand the safety precautions when storing the pallets. Pallets should never be stored while standing up on their side because they could fall and injure someone at any moment. Instead, lay the pallets flat on the ground, either on their own, or stacked. Only stack pallets manually up to eight pallets high; after that you should use a forklift.
Proper Handling and Moving of Pallets
In order to avoid physical injury while moving and handling pallets, workers should practice pallet safety tips. This includes practicing proper lifting techniques, such as keeping the back straight and never bending over to pick up a pallet. Pallet jacks are recommended when moving pallets as injuries can be sustained more frequently from moving them manually. Slide pallets into place rather than throwing them in order to avoid injury to yourself or others.
Pallets have become an efficient way to move and store goods and inventory for a variety of industries, but workers using them on a daily basis should be aware of the risks and how to avoid them. As a small business owner, it is also recommended you obtain proper business insurance in the event of an injury from pallets.