6 Safety Tips for Handling Wooden Pallets
Wooden pallets play a vital role in Australia’s vast and efficient supply chain. They’re extensively used in agriculture, manufacturing, and logistics to store and transport goods safely. Their versatility and cost-effectiveness make them a preferred choice for businesses in these industries.
Australia’s stringent regulations ensure that wooden pallets are heat-treated and comply with international standards, especially for exports. This ensures that the structures meet the requirements for international trade and contribute to the smooth functioning of the country’s supply chain and logistics networks.
Pallets and packing cases today remain a billion-dollar industry in the country, with timber pallets Melbourne being among the major players in the industry.
Safety tips for handling pallets
As experts in this industry, here are our top tips on handling your timber pallets:
- Inspect the pallets beforehand
A crucial step in ensuring safe pallet handling is a simple inspection before use. Apart from safeguarding your well-being, it prevents mishaps that can disrupt operations.
Here’s what you should watch out for when inspecting pallets:
- Structural integrity: Inspecting pallets helps identify cracks, splits, or weakened components that could compromise their strength.
- Possible contamination: Checking for signs of contamination from mould, chemicals, or pests prevents their spread to goods.
- Load suitability: An inspection ensures the pallet is suitable for the intended load, preventing overloading or instability.
- Worker safety: Confirm that nails or fasteners aren’t protruding, which can pose injury risks.
- Capacity check: Verify that the pallet is rated for the weight of the load it’ll carry.
Routinely inspecting wooden pallets and addressing any issues promptly can do a lot in making your work environment safe. Plus, you’ll also be ensuring the reliable movement of goods through the supply chain.
- Proper manual lifting techniques
When handling wooden pallets, proper lifting techniques can make all the difference in ensuring safety and avoiding strain-related injuries.
For heavier pallets, pallet jacks and forklifts are the proper lifting equipment. For other pallets, good old human power may be more appropriate. In which case, follow these:
- Bend your knees: When lifting, bend your knees and keep your back straight. This posture reduces strain on your back muscles.
- Get a firm grip: Ensure a secure grip on the pallet handles or edges to maintain control.
- Use your legs: Power your lift with your leg muscles, not your back. Push through your legs to stand up.
- Avoid twisting: Move your feet rather than twisting your torso when changing direction.
Pallets should also never be thrown or dropped, as this weakens the structures and makes them more likely to fail in the future. It’s also a hazard to others who may be in the area.
- Stacking pallets correctly
Correct wood pallet stacking is a skill in itself. It’s also a fundamental safety measure. You need to follow the best packing and shipping practices.
Here are some tips on how to stack timber pallets correctly:
- Stay within height limitations: Be cautious when stacking pallets on trucks and trailers. Avoid stacking too high, as this can lead to cargo spillage and accidents.
- Place the heaviest cargo toward the bottom: For safe stacking, position the heaviest cargo at the bottom to lower the centre of gravity. A stable base is crucial to prevent stack toppling during transport.
- Don’t reuse damaged pallets: Damaged pallets pose risks, including stack tip-overs and worker injuries. Discard pallets with splintering wood, chipped edges, or protruding nails. Replace damaged pallets promptly.
- Stack pallets evenly: Maintain proper weight distribution by stacking pallets evenly with no overhang. Proper weight distribution minimises the risk of falls and instability.
- Stay within weight limitations: Respect weight limits for pallets, forklifts, trailers, and equipment to prevent functional issues and accidents. Overloading may not cause immediate damage but can lead to unexpected failures during operations.
- Use a pallet stacking pattern: Columnar stacking keeps pallets aligned vertically, ensuring stability. Moreover, interlocking patterns involving rotating rectangular pallets create a more cohesive stack.
Regardless of your chosen pallet stacking method, ensure that only trained personnel handle stacking and unstacking tasks.
- Wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is the workers’ first line of defence, as it protects them from potential hazards.
Here are some essential PPE items for handling wood pallets:
- Safety gloves: They protect hands from splinters, sharp edges, and potential chemical exposure.
- Steel-toed boots: These prevent foot injuries from falling objects or heavy loads.
- Eye protection: Earplugs or earmuffs guard against excessive noise in bustling warehouse environments.
- High-visibility vests: They enhance visibility to avoid collisions, particularly in busy loading areas.
Donning PPE isn’t just a guideline; it’s a non-negotiable aspect of pallet handling.
- Safe handling of tools
Handling pallets efficiently often requires the use of various tools, from pallet jacks to crowbars. Here’s a list of the most common ones and how to use them safely:
- Pallet jacks: Inspect the jack for any defects before use. Make sure the load is evenly distributed on the forks. Be cautious of your foot placement to avoid injury when moving pallets.
- Crowbars: Wear safety gloves when using crowbars. Use controlled force when prying apart pallets. Be mindful of the direction of force to prevent any sudden movements.
- Stretch wrap dispensers: Ensure the stretch film is securely attached to the dispenser before wrapping pallets. Maintain proper tension on the film during the wrapping process. Store the dispenser safely to prevent any tripping hazards.
- Ratchet straps: Check the condition of the straps and buckles for any signs of damage before use. When securing loads, tighten the straps securely to prevent any shifting during transport. When unloading, release the tension slowly to avoid any potential injuries.
- Pallet hooks: Before using pallet hooks, inspect them for signs of wear and tear. Engage them in the pallet openings properly to ensure secure lifting. Always be aware of your surroundings when lifting with hooks.
Practising these tool handling measures can improve your safety record and your efficiency.
- Reporting and addressing hazards
Ensuring workplace safety with wooden pallets involves more than following safety guidelines. It also requires actively reporting and addressing hazards.
Below are the steps for dealing with and disposing of hazardous pallets:
- Isolate the pallet: After documenting its condition, remove the hazardous pallet from the work area to prevent further risks.
- Follow company procedures: Adhere to your company’s established protocols for disposing of damaged pallets.
- Proper disposal: Arrange for proper disposal, recycling, or repair, depending on your company’s policies.
- Educate team members: Ensure your colleagues are aware of the issue and the steps taken to address it.
- Prevent recurrence: Identify the root cause of the hazard and implement preventive measures to avoid similar issues in the future.
Remember, reporting hazards and addressing them promptly is a shared responsibility.
The safe handling of wooden pallets is essential in various industries across Australia. Following safety measures ensures the well-being of workers, the efficiency of the supply chain, and a culture of safety and responsibility in the workplace.