Pallet Trucks are an extremely common piece of equipment in warehouses and distribution centres – they are cost effective, easy to use with very little training, and improve safety and productivity dramatically. However, they can also be the cause of injuries and accidents if they are not used correctly. Here’s our quick guide to the safe, effective use of pallet trucks/pump trucks.
Before you or your operators start using the pallet truck each shift, give it a quick inspection. Look for wonky wheels, obvious damage or wear, check the brake (if fitted), check for smooth pump action and that the hydraulics are lifting/dropping correctly and evenly. Staff can be trained to conduct these checks, or they can be carried out by team leaders, maintenance or management personnel.
Pallet trucks do not have unlimited capacities. Maximum operating loads are usually marked on the trucks themselves, however in the event that this information is missing or has worn away, ensure that operators are aware of the upper limit and stay under it. Overloaded trucks can cause manual handling strains when pushing or pulling, are more likely to tip over and damage the load, adjacent equipment or staff, and are much harder to control. You can negate this by using weigh beams, scales or more simply by marking loads with their weight.
Although designed for use on flat ground, the reality is that often operators might need to negotiate ramps or inclines/declines with the pallet truck. There are a couple of easy ways to improve the safety of this manoeuvre. Firstly, raise the forks higher than usual, to ensure that there is enough clearance for the raised surface. Secondly, when going up a ramp, instead of pulling the truck, push. This will ensure that the load does not slip from the forks, and makes it easier for the operator to keep the weight balanced and under control.
Stopping a heavy load in motion can be risky. Stopping abruptly may cause unsecured, oversized or heavier loads to tip due to momentum. Bring the truck to a smooth stop, and ensure that you have left enough space to do so. When stationary, if your truck has locking brakes, use them to make sure that the truck does not roll.
As mentioned above, when you or your operator are moving up a ramp it is best practice to push the truck. When moving along flat ground, though, it is always better to pull the truck. This causes less strain on the user, gives better manoeuvrability and allows for an unobstructed view of the route ahead, including trip hazards, other members of staff or any spills or obstructions that need to be considered.
At the end of shifts, or when on a break, encourage operators to return the truck to a dedicated area. Once there, best practice is to make sure that forks are lowered and are either facing a wall or at least away from high-traffic areas. This should prevent personnel from tripping over the exposed forks. The added benefit of a dedicated storage area is that you can more easily conduct the pre-shift checks outlined earlier.
If you would like further advice, or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with one of our team of experts who will be happy to help. In the meantime, make sure to check out our extensive range of pallet trucks.