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If you use pallets for storage or logistics within your business operations, then pallets safety needs to be a key part of your company’s health and safety initiatives.
Read on to learn more about some of the best practices for pallets safety and deploy these as you keep your workplace – and your team – safe.
Inspect and audit your pallets
Pallets are robust storage solutions, but that does not make them immune from wear and tear. Think about all the weight these pallets have to carry on a regular basis. Consider all the times they get dropped on floors or knocked against walls. This will give you a clue about how much stress these pieces of equipment are under.
To safeguard against the danger of old, weak, or damaged pallets, carry out regular inspections and audits, removing any unsuitable pallets from your workspace. Look out for:
- Loose connections between boards and blocks, which may make the pallet structurally unsound
- Boards that have become broken or weakened over time
- Any nails or fasteners that are protruding from the pallet itself, causing a hazard
Carry out and review training often
Making sure your pallets themselves are up to the job is only half the battle. You also need to make sure your team is armed with the knowledge and training they need to use pallets safely.
Your inspection and audit team may be knowledgeable about pallet safety, but other members of your team may not be. Ensure training is delivered to everyone and that it covers all of the different roles each member of staff may find themselves handling.
Training should also be reviewed on a regular basis. You can’t expect your team to retain all the knowledge they receive after just one training session. Conduct regular appraisals and assessments to secure high levels of safety on an ongoing basis.
Put strict guidelines in place for stacking and carrying
Two of the biggest dangers involving pallets include stacking and carrying, so your pallet safety best practices must reflect this. Pallets that are stacked too high or with too much weight can collapse, causing serious injury and even death. Employees who try to lift heavy pallets may also sustain injuries, particularly if they are not using proper lifting techniques.
Make sure your training and education address this. For example, OSHA guidelines require that empty pallets should be stacked no more than 15 feet high. So make sure this is understood within your team. It is also recommended that a single employee should not attempt to lift a pallet weighing above 50 lbs. Responsible lifting – and a responsible attitude to workplace safety – should be covered in your training.
Don’t be ambiguous in your wording. Don’t leave any room for misunderstanding or for excuses if guidelines are not followed. Be very clear that 15 feet really does mean 15 feet, for example, and not 16 or 17.
Publicize all guidelines and requirements
Visual reminders can go a long way to helping you secure a strong culture of workplace safety. In any areas in which pallets are being used, place clear signs in prominent places, reminding staff of their duties and obligations, as well as their rights, when it comes to safety.
Be project-specific with these signs. For example, in loading bays, where materials handling might involve the use of a forklift truck or another heavy piece of machinery, place signs that relate to this. In locations where employees may be stacking pallets ready for use at a later date, post signs that provide information on safe stacking.
You may also want to publish your inspection guidelines in sign-form. This way, your staff will be able to help you with your audit by identifying any damaged or unsuitable pallets before they begin to pose a serious risk.
Implement penalties for putting health and safety at risk
You are not looking to punish your team, but you do need to communicate to them just how serious their health and safety is to you and to your company. In order to achieve this, implement penalties for those who engage in risky behavior or who flout training rules and regulations in this area.
Your team does not want to go against company policy or to do anything that will knowingly put themselves or others in danger. However, it is easy to become complacent in the workplace and to become so familiar with your surroundings that you do not always notice the dangers you are exposed to.
By putting in place a rigidly enforced system regarding the usage and handling of pallets, and by demonstrating that penalties will be administered to anyone who does not follow health and safety regulations, you are helping employees to become more aware of their duties and their surroundings. This can dramatically reduce the number of accidents, and it will provide your team with the protection and security they deserve.
Make safe pallet handling a key aspect of your workplace culture
Health and safety is not something that is nurtured simply by one-to-one or job-specific training. Instead, it is something that needs to become part of the very fabric of your organization.
By giving team members the opportunity to take ownership of their situation and really engage with health and safety requirements in the workplace, you are helping to foster this culture.
To achieve this, appoint health and safety champions who can monitor health and safety on the ground, provide rewards that incentivize good health and safety behavior (rather than only punishing violations), and implement mentoring systems that allow experienced team members to share their wisdom with new hires. These moves will have long-lasting benefits across your whole company.
Health and safety is crucial across your entire workplace
Anywhere pallets are used, there is a risk to health and safety. However, by taking the right steps, you can mitigate this risk and keep your teams protected. Make sure the safety and well-being of your workforce is always a key priority when making business decisions.