In the global supply chain, wooden pallets provide a secure base for storing and moving products and are often handled on a daily basis. While a pallet that is in top condition can safely hold multiple boxes and heavy merchandise, problems like incorrect stacking, inappropriate usage, or unnoticed damage can result in a pallet collapse that destroys thousands of dollars’ worth of product and threatens the safety and even the lives of workers. Thankfully, there are many ways to prevent this and tips to follow that will help ensure your company’s pallet racking or stacking is safe and able to do the job.
- Choose the Right Pallets for the Purpose
Safe pallet use starts with safe pallets, and it’s well worth your time getting it right from the get-go to avoid having to replace pallets, machinery, and inventory in the future. To start with, make sure that you purchase new pallets from a reputable company that provides detailed usage and maintenance specifications. If you’re shipping outside of Canada or the US, you’ll need to provide evidence of appropriate heat-treating for insects and mold, but this step is not required for domestic shipping. The supplier will be able to indicate if their pallets are suitable for use in racking and which pallet models are suitable for different kinds of loads.
“Pallets represent one of the most important tools in the supply chain industry today and must be sourced responsibly if global trade is to be sustainable over the longer term,” Jake Thill, Director of Marketing and Sales at Fruit Growers Supply explained. “When looking for the best pallet to use in your warehouse, look for a sustainable forestry certification. That’s important if you want to ensure your pallets are coming from environmentally-responsible sources. The quality of wood is often better when the land is treated better, too.”
While wood pallets are the most popular, there are several other options available too, including plastic pallets, paper pallets, wood composite and even metal ones too. Each has its own benefits and strengths, and you need to ensure you’re sourcing the right product for your business.
- Have Pallet Racking Designed and Installed by Professionals
Your company may be small now, but the design of your pallet racking or stacking must take future growth into account. Retrofitting your racking system to allow for storing more inventory is not only more expensive than getting the design right from the start, but can also lead to overloading, forklift collisions, and racking collapses with potentially devastating consequences.
Having your racking or stacking system designed and installed by an experienced, professional company will ensure that you choose the correct system for the products you stock and the machinery that you use, and is also the best way to be certain that all of the relevant manufacturer and building code instructions will be followed at the time of installation.
- Follow Manufacturer Instructions and Label Racking Clearly
Safety with pallets — as with any product — really is a matter of reading the instructions. Every pallet manufacturer will provide weight limits for the loads that their pallets can safely bear and these limits should be displayed with clear notices and followed by all staff and supervisors. As a general rule, heavier loads should be stored in lower bays and long and bulky items are best stored using a cantilever system. These guidelines must also be followed in seasonal hot spots for product turnover — as even temporary overloading or careless storage could lead to a disaster.
- Hire an Independent Company to Inspect Your Pallet Racking
Over time, pallets can weaken and become damaged, and accidents while handling pallets can cause them to break. For the safety of staff and the product inventory, it’s essential that any broken pallets be removed and repaired or recycled to prevent a slip or trip injury, and that staff are trained to report any signs of damage or faults in pallets as soon as they see them so that those pallets can be removed from circulation and repaired.
As a routine measure to prevent collapse, every company that uses pallets should have their pallets inspected by an independent company on an annual basis and maintenance and repair measures implemented immediately.
- Teach Safe Pallet Handling Guidelines to All Staff
Many accidents and injuries are a direct result of risky pallet handling behaviors, so your staff needs to be trained in safe pallet handling and adequately supervised to ensure they follow these guidelines on the job. For example, personnel should never climb on pallets to retrieve an item that is stored up high, should never be lifted while standing on a pallet, and should always lift a pallet with a lighter load between two people with appropriate steel-toed shoes if a forklift is not available.
By taking these safety precautions and never improvising when it comes to pallets, your company can enjoy greater efficiency, safety for workers, and a healthier bottom line in the long run.
Author Bio: Jordan McDowell is a writer and content strategist. He specializes in manufacturing and often covers workplace safety, but also enjoys writing about the automotive industry and exploring the great outdoors.