Seven Simple Steps to Forklift Safety While Handling Pallets


When it comes to ensuring safe forklift operation, don’t forget about pallets! Pallets are the interface between your valuable load and your forklift, and they play a crucial role in safe lift truck operation. Our new video will help you understand the do’s and don’t of forklift safety when working with pallets.

Whether you’re a first-time user or an experienced pro, these seven simple steps for ensuring forklift safety when moving pallets. will help keep you safe and sound.

1. Check pallet condition and type before lifting the unit load

Take a moment to inspect the pallet from the end and side before and during lifting the lift. Are there cracks, splits, or other notable damage? Set aside any compromised pallet that could result in product damage, personal injury, or any pallet you might be unsure about. If it looks different from the ones you usually receive and you are uncertain of its racking strength, for example, it is a good idea to check with your supervisor before lifting.

2. Standardize and stabilize the unit load

As a forklift operator, it is a good idea to report overhanging and underhanging loads. Both can be susceptible to product damage. Overhanging loads can rub or snag on other adjacent loads or objects. Underhanging loads can be less stable than loads that entirely fill the pallet’s top deck. A short-term fix is to take extra care when handling these loads. In the moment, extra pallet wrap can help protect overhanging loads and better secure those that underhang. A better long-term solution is to work with supply chain partners to eliminate these issues.

3. Stop before entering the pallet and keep those forks flat

Many forklift operators are under pressure to handle a target number of pallets hourly, and entering a pallet on the fly with your forklift can seem like a good idea to save time.

Unfortunately, this practice can be counter-productive. The sudden impact can cause product and pallet damage, not to mention extra handling to pick up cartons that topple off the pallet. Forceful entry can drive back the pallet’s top lead board, and entry with tilted forks can pop the lead board off.

4. Lower the unit load gently

Lift truck operators often lower loads quickly to save time. Be sure to slow down, however, before contact with the floor. Our fourth step to forklift safety is to ease up before load placement. Don’t drop it like a hot potato! The jarring impact can result in pallet damage, carton deformation, scratches, dents, and other trauma to products inside.

5. Make sure the load is stable before moving

Make sure your load is stable and centered before lifting. Avoid short forking or incomplete entry of the fork tines into the pallet. This practice can result in deck board separation as well as a poorly centered load.

An off-center pallet of merchandise can fall or, worse yet, contribute to a forklift tip-over. For evenly distributed loads such as a pallet of consumer products, for example, it is straightforward to determine fork placement. However, when an engine or other asymmetrical object is placed on a pallet, the operator will have to estimate the center of gravity and place forks accordingly. Remember that the center of gravity for longer loads will be further away from the forklift, reducing the forklift’s safe lifting capacity. You can determine if you can safely lift the load by checking on your forklift’s data plate.

6. Keep it low and drive carefully

You have centered your load and are ready to travel. Remember that the higher you carry the load, the less stable your forklift will become, particularly when turning or driving on uneven terrain. Keeping the load low will help ensure stability. When traveling with a load, consider that it will take longer to stop and that hammering the brakes could result in a load spill.

7. Don’t skid or bulldoze pallets

Our seventh and final step to forklift safety is to avoid skidding or bulldozing pallets across the plant floor or yard. This practice can result in damage to the bottom of the pallet as well as forklift transmission damage and premature tire wear. When skidding a pallet across gravel, it can be trapped inside the pallet and inadvertently transported into production areas. Finally, pushing stacks of pallets or palletized unit loads can be potentially dangerous when you don’t have a line of site to ensure there are no operators or pedestrians in your path.

Pallets are a critical interface between your unit load and your forklift. By paying attention to the seven steps above, you can work more safely, reduce the risk of injury and damage, and finally, better protect your investment in pallets.

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