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Pallet jack operator safety

Pallet jack operators, whether it’s an electric pallet jack or a manual one, can move up to two tonnes at a time and, like any humans, they look for shortcuts. These might not be ‘best practice’, though, so we have a list below of common things that operators do which should be corrected.

Pallet jack operators should never:

  • Raise or lower loads while the pallet jack is moving as imperfections in the floor, or sideways forces due to turning could cause the load to fall off or the pallet jack to overturn. Only raise and lower the forks when stopped in front of the stack where it’s going to be picked from or placed onto
  • Allow a pedestrian to stand underneath or right next to raise forks that have a load on them. If the load shifts and falls off, the falling items can cause serious injury or death
  • Carry a load with one fork. Stability is reliant on the load being fairly evenly balanced; pallet jacks are not designed to support a load on one fork
  • Ride on the forks
  • Operate the pallet jack without being aware of the rated capacity and staying within its limits
  • Leave a load on a stack, rack or truck that looks unstable
  • Leave a load stacked on sloping ground
  • Slide pallets along the ground (it caused them to become weaker)
  • Leave electric pallet jacks unattended with the keys in
  • Skip doing the pre-inspection check
  • Lift items off the pallet jack which are too heavy for the operator to lift
  • Lift using poor lifting technique
  • Push a pallet jack forwards down an incline; the forks must always face uphill

Pallet jack operators should always:

  • Travel with the load no more than 150mm from the ground (for electric pallet jacks with a mast)
  • Leave the pallet jack in a safe place to avoid it being a trip hazard
  • Be gentle with the freight
  • Be gentle with the equipment
  • Keep feet away from the pallet jack; don’t put a foot underneath the pallet jack
  • Pull the load when on a flat surface, walking ahead of it to ensure the path is clear
It’s best practice to pull the pallet jack so that you can see where you are going
Leaving the pallet jack with its forks in a pallet is the easiest way of preventing the forks being a trip hazard

Find out more about the 3-yearly pallet jack operator’s certificate which covers electric and manual pallet jacks, walkies, jiffy trucks and pedestrian-operated forklifts.

Example of a fatal pallet jack incident

As reported with OSHA, a Walmart employee was “…taking a bale of cardboard boxes that weighed approximately 300 lbs. on a manual pallet jack with the weight capacity of 5,500 lbs. down the back receiving ramp. During this time, the employee was standing in front of the pallet jack when he lost control and the load knocked the employee down to the ground and pinned him against a brick wall. The employee died from fractures to the neck and internal injuries.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Tagged with: | Posted in Advice, Walkie Pallet Jack
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