While you may ship pallets often, can you honestly say that you make every effort to protect your pallets and those who handle them, too?
Think about that for a minute. Let it all sink in.
Just imagine all the risks and costs involved with mishandling pallets.
No matter how hard you have tried in the past, brushing up on some expert pallet safety tips couldn't hurt, right?
On that note, here are 8 proven pallet safety tips that are guaranteed to keep your pallet deliveries in order!
1) Know if a Pallet is Safe!
One of the biggest giveaways that a pallet is safe for shipping is the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) stamp.
This is used to determine how the pallet has been treated, i.e. heat treatment, chemical treatment or something entirely different.
Either way, the IPPC stamp will tell you this right away.
Here are the most common IPPC stamps used on pallets:
- HT: means the pallet has been heat-treated and won't have come into any contact with toxic chemicals during the treating process.
- MB: means the pallet has been treated with methyl bromide. Try to avoid using pallets with this stamp.
- DB: means the tree used to make the pallet has had all its bark removed (debarked). This allows other heat treatments to be applied efficiently to the pallet afterwards.
- KD: means the pallet has been kiln-dried to reduce moisture in the wood. This helps to protect against things like wood rot.
Just to be safe, always avoid using pallets that aren't marked or any that are stamped 'MB' for methyl bromide.
Also, inspecting pallets before purchasing them is a fantastic way of identifying damage.
If there are signs of damage, i.e. chips, splits or rotting, then you must look elsewhere for pallets in better condition.
2) Wear Appropriate Pallet PPE
Personal protective equipment is not rocket science!
Using the right PPE is the key to making sure not just your pallets, but that you are protected against the risks involved with moving and handling pallets.
If you operate a warehouse or storeroom, PPE is likely to be a crucial part of your daily risk assessment.
So, if you haven't taken it too seriously in the past, it should be at the very top of your list now!
On that note, warehouse workers are generally forced to wear steel toe-cap boots, hard hats, high-vis vest and sometimes even safety glasses.
But could you imagine what would happen if something went wrong and there was no PPE worn? Ouch!
On the flip side, those working in a storeroom may only be encouraged to wear basic PPE to avoid putting themselves at risk, i.e. high-vis vests and hard-wearing boots.
PPE is purely for your safety, but what you consider necessary depends on the tasks you carry out.
For example, handling pallets requires more PPE than picking and packing in warehouses - you get the idea?
3) Use Pallet Jacks to Move Pallets!
Most people who move pallets use something called a pallet jack to do this easily.
They can also be called pallet pumps, pallet jacks, pump trucks, scooters, dogs and jiggers.
Whatever you call them, they essentially lift and move pallets around quickly and safely, with very minimal effort needed from you.
Pallet jacks are also the simplest form of a forklift.
They are designed for the sole purpose of moving pallets around warehouses or to and from delivery vehicles.
Simply approach your pallet with a pallet jack, position the forks underneath said pallet and simply lift and wheel it away to where it needs to be.
Key Note: just to be on the safe side, you can access simple pallet jack user guides easily.
When you learn how to operate one safely, you won't need to refer to user guides as often.
4) Never Pull a Pallet Truck!
Pallet trucks are simple devices.
They are designed to allow a person to pick up and move a pallet around safely.
Normally, pallets can be moved several times and can be several times the weight of the person moving them - a pallet truck is a very handy tool to have!
For this reason, you must never try to pull a pallet truck that is fully loaded.
It is much easier to push your body weight forwards and will help prevent any unnecessary injuries.
5) Use a Ramp To Offload Pallets
Using a pallet jack to move a pallet is one thing, but offloading is an entirely different and much harder task in itself.
For this reason, we recommend having some (strong) helpers at hand to assist with any unloading if you don't have the appropriate tools.
You can remove heavy items from your pallet using a ramp, with a little help from a pinch bar or a very large screwdriver.
Start by slowly and carefully nudging each item less than an inch (each time) off the pallet, down the ramp.
Remember that for heavy machinery and such, you can always leave them on the pallet as this will not affect their use.
The pallet would simply lift it off the ground and offer a little more protection, too.
6) Learn How To Push Your Pallet Jack
When handling a pallet jack, there should be a lever or buttons on the handle that controls the direction of movement, i.e. lowering the forks to lift the pallet off the ground.
Moving a pallet jack with loaded pallets can be tricky and often requires someone strong and aware of any potential risks involved.
This person must also be fully equipped and trained in using pallet jacks!
To physically move the pallet jack, you need to use the handles and push forwards.
The wheels make it easier to manoeuvre the pallet jack around warehouses, but unless you have an electric one at hand, moving your pallets is going to be a manual task.
7) Never Stack in Pyramids!
Despite what you may have read, stacking boxes in pyramids is a risky move when shipping pallets. Why? Because there's room for movement.
If there's room for movement, there's plenty of room for damage, too.
The idea is that by minimising gaps and open space on your pallets, the less likely they are to turn up damaged at the delivery point.
Think about it logically, right? There's one box sat at the top of your pallet, alone and exposed.
No other boxes are keeping it flush and cushioned. You're setting yourself up to lose money!
Say you have 67 boxes and 64 of them make an even full pallet.
There would be 4 on each row and each side, 4 boxes high - a smooth, flat top.
What would you do with the extra 3 boxes, do you know? Think about it.
You could either add them lengthways and arrange an oversized pallet delivery, or simply book a smaller additional pallet to ship them all together, i.e. a quarter pallet.
Nevertheless, never stack your boxes in pyramids if you want your pallet delivery to go smoothly!
8) No Gaps On Pallets
As mentioned, there should be no gaps on your pallets. Gaps mean room for movement and in most cases, this means damaged goods.
Not only should you eliminate gaps on your pallets, but you should also try to minimise the space your items have to move around inside the boxes as well.
You can do this by adding additional packing materials to your boxes, i.e. bubble wrap and packing peanuts.
We recommend saving any protective packing materials from any orders you take in and reusing them for your pallet deliveries.
Any air-filled, lightweight materials will help. And if you need some guidance on what to look for, here are a few of our favourites:
- Packing foam
- Packing paper
- Bubble wrap
- Packing peanuts
- Korrvu Packaging
The more packaging you use, the better!
Aim to fill as much space in each of your boxes so that your items have no room to move around during their journey.