Pallet Trucks are a ubiquitous 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 cause injuries and accidents if they are not used correctly. Here’s our quick guide to the safe, effective use of pallet trucks and pump trucks.
Pallet Trucks should be inspected before each use. Look for wonky wheels, apparent 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 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, if 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 operators might often 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 enough clearance for the raised surface. Secondly, push when going up a ramp instead of pulling the truck. 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 you have left enough space. 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, 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 on a break, encourage operators to return the truck to a dedicated area. Once there, the best practice is to ensure that forks are lowered and 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 questions, please contact one of our team of experts, who will be happy to help. In the meantime, make sure to check out our extensive range of Warehouse Equipment.
Richard O'Connor is a Director at First Mats. He has deep knowledge in areas like Manufacturing, Warehousing, Marine, and Health & Safety. Richard's insights have been featured in well-known publications such as Bloomberg Business, The Sun, and Reader's Digest. His blend of industry expertise and passion for sharing makes him a sought-after voice in his fields.