Pallets are used across a multitude of industries, in warehouses, on construction sites and in farms. These incredibly versatile and useful tools are the lifeblood of many organisations, providing a means for transporting and storing goods and materials inter and intra-site.
Whilst often considered as part of the furniture, care is required to ensure the safe storage and use of pallets both on and off site. This guide is intended to provide you with practical tips for safe pallet operation and to avoid common accidents that occur when using pallets.
The relevant legislation covering the use of pallets is the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. It dictates that any equipment used in the workplace is constructed and used in a suitable manner when compared to its purpose.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires you to complete a risk assessment that covers any risks or hazards that arise from using and storing pallets on site. This should include the risk to all visitors to your site, not just staff and contractors.
The equipment you use to transport and stack pallets on site must be suitable for purpose. Forklifts and telehandlers are popular material handling vehicles. The former are best suited for use in warehouses and for in workplaces where the terrain is flat and even. Forklift trucks are better suited for more challenging terrains on construction sites and agricultural sites, for example. To hire a telehandler or invest in a second hand machine visit UK Forks, the telehandler specialists.
The safe use of handling equipment is paramount when transporting or stacking pallets. Ensure all pedestrians are kept clear of operating machinery and ensure operators are fully trained and competent.
Pallet racking must be carefully maintained in order to mitigate risks of falls or collapses. This maintenance should incorporate a number of checks and inspections by staff and supervisors. Light inspections should be carried out daily, with more thorough checks every fortnight or month.
The type of racking used should be chosen for the pallets and stack plan. Is drive-in-racking required or will shelf or beam racking suffice? Support beams should be well positioned and wide enough to support all the configurations of pallet on site. Bear in mind that considerable stresses are placed on a pallet stored with its longest dimension across the rack.
When stacking pallets it is important to consider the load that is placed on the pallets at the bottom of the stack. The capacity of the lower pallets must not be breached and every care should be taken to spread load where possible.
Taking care of your pallets is also of paramount importance in maintaining the health and safety of your staff and site visitors. Rotten, damaged or poorly maintained pallets can fail or slip, potentially causing serious damage.
Every care should be taken to store pallets in doors, to prevent them from rotting or corroding. This is particularly applicable to wood, paper or metal pallets. On a similar note, liquids or contaminants that are spilled onto a pallet must be cleared up immediately to prevent damage.
Regular inspections of your pallets are required to check for damage or degradation. In a working warehouse or industrial site, or in transport, pallets can become damaged or cracked regardless of the size or weight of the loads. A damaged pallet must be immediately removed from service and replaced or repaired to a certain standard.
Loading and Transporting Pallets
When selecting a pallet consider its load capacity, size and state or repair in order to assess its suitable for the job at hand. Selecting the first pallet can be dangerous, particularly if it turns out to not meet the specifications of the job.
Finally, when loading a pallet take care to distribute the load evenly across its surface. As a rule of thumb, do not stack goods or materials above the height of the longest base dimension in order to prevent them toppling from the pallet. Securing the load with straps is useful although shrink-wrapping provides the most secure fastening. If higher loads are required, ensure they are carefully secured before transportation or storage.