It takes all kinds of equipment to keep materials moving. Even if your warehouse has forklifts to do the heavy lifting, workers also need pallet jacks to get the job done. Pallet jacks are versatile pieces of equipment that come in handy in all kinds of situations, but they can be dangerous if operated incorrectly. There are a few important considerations to keep in mind when it comes to pallet jack safety.
Just why is pallet jack safety important? According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there were 68 serious injuries, including multiple fatalities, associated with improper pallet jack use in the United States between during a recent 15-year study.
Even though OSHA doesn’t require certification for pallet jack operators, pallet jack safety training is essential. These five pallet jack safety tips from Naumann/Hobbs can help keep business running smoothly and prevent injuries on the warehouse floor. Following these pallet jack tips can help workers stay safe.
Never Carry a Load Too Large
Even though pallet jacks can carry some seriously large loads, they all have their limits. Carrying too large of a load on a pallet jack can lead to user injury, as well as damage to the equipment. In fact, OSHA requirements dictate that the jack being used “must have a rating sufficient to lift and sustain the load.”
How much can a pallet jack carry? The answer depends on if the pallet jack is manual or electric. In most cases, a standard manual hand pallet jack can move between 3,000 and 5,500 lbs., depending on the model and manufacturer. Electric pallet jacks can lift significantly more. For example, some equipment can handle up to 8,000 lbs.
This means that if you are regularly moving very large loads, it is best to opt for a heavy-duty electric pallet jack that has the muscle and power to keep things moving.
Use Proper Lifting Techniques
Many pallet jack injuries are associated with the use of improper lifting techniques when loading or unloading materials. Implementing the right warehouse lifting techniques can prevent injury and strain.
Consider the following warehouse lifting technique tips to stay safe when manually handling materials:
- Know your limits and acknowledge that some things just might be too heavy to handle.
- Get on the same level as the material you’re handling. This means you might need to get low into a squatting position with your knees bent.
- Keep your back straight when lifting.
- Don’t lift with your back. Instead, lift with your legs. To do this, plant your feet hip-width apart and, keeping your back straight and holding the object you are lifting close to your body, use the muscles in your thighs to rise up.
- Don’t twist or turn your back when lifting a heavy load.
- Stay safe by ensuring you can see over the load.
- Keep your feet protected by wearing proper, supportive footwear.
Inspect Your Pallet Jack Before Each Use
According to pallet jack safety information from OSHA, it is imperative to inspect your pallet jack before use every single time you put the equipment to work. Using a defective pallet jack can have serious consequences. For example, a damaged pallet jack could cause a load to shift or fall, resulting in both user injury and damaged materials.
When inspecting your pallet jack before use, OSHA suggests examining rubber wheels for wear, ensuring proper lubrication of all moving parts, and looking for cracks or other damage to the jack. Make sure the brakes work and the equipment is easily maneuvered. You can also consult information from the manufacturer to ensure the equipment is in proper working order and in safe operating condition.
Use Common Sense When Operating a Pallet Jack
It takes a good bit of common sense to operate a pallet jack safely. Two important things to keep in mind when using a pallet jack are:
- Keep the handle in a neutral position when in use. When the operating handle is in neutral during motion, you can keep the momentum rolling. Any accidental shifts or lowering can stop the pallet truck and cause materials to topple down.
- Never put your hands or feet under a pallet jack. A pallet jack is a potential pinch point. Placing your hands and feet under a pallet truck, for any reason, can lead to serious injury. If something is caught or rolls under the pallet jack, don’t reach for it with your hand or foot — instead, use an object to retrieve it.
Know When to Push and When to Pull
If you’re operating a manual pallet jack, you’ll find that there are a few situations where you’ll need to both push and pull the truck.
What determines whether you’ll push or pull your pallet jack depends on the grade or incline you’re operating on and the weight of the load you’re carrying.
Push your pallet jack if the ground is flat. You’ll likely find that pushing is a more natural motion and easier on the body. If you need to move the pallet jack on an incline, consider pulling the pallet jack. Pulling the pallet jack on an incline can make the brake more accessible. If you’re working on a significant slope and carrying a lot of weight, get a partner to help guide you as you operate the handle.
An organized warehouse is a safer warehouse. Knowing how to organize your warehouse shelves can also help pallet jack operators move safely.
Stay Safe with Training from Naumann/Hobbs
In addition to following the common-sense pallet jack safety tips above, pallet jack operators need to be compliant with OSHA rules and regulations. The best way to ensure proper use, safety, and OSHA compliance is with proper pallet jack safety training.
Naumann/Hobbs is ready to be your strategic partner in forklift and warehouse training. Classes offered cover everything your business needs to meet OSHA requirements and keep your employees safe on the job.