10 Tips to Avoid Pallet Damage From Forklifts | Pallet Consultants
Damaged pallets lower productivity and increase costs, and are most often caused by forklifts. Here are 10 tips from one of our operations managers on how to reduce forklift pallet damage.
The cost of pallets and their repairs can add up over time, impacting your bottom line. Although they can be damaged in many different ways, mishandling by forklifts is the most common cause. Fortunately, many situations that result in harm to pallets can be avoided through careful handling and reinforced training. Start a conversation with us to learn more ways your operation can reduce pallet damage, like using pallets with reinforced deckboards and screws. We talked to our Atlanta Operations Manager Casey Hardegree to get an expert opinion on the 10 best ways to avoid forklift pallet damage:
- Slow Down
- Use the Right Pallet
- Fully Clear Pallet Before Turning
- Do Not "Train" Pallets
- Do Not Short-Fork Pallets
- Space Tines Correctly
- Spread Tines Before Lifting
- Color Tines for Visibility
- Stack Pallets Evenly
- Declutter Warehouse
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1. Slow Down
Hardegree says this is one of the most important tips when it comes to limiting forklift damage and is related to many of the other tips you'll read below. Slowing down gives forklift operators more time to properly handle pallets and reduce instances of short forking, improper tine spacing and other shortcuts. Additionally, slowing down prevents the mast, tines, or other parts of the lift from slamming into the pallet or the products it carries. Reducing haste and using forklifts more gently will also extend the life of your forklifts. The most important times to slow down are when picking up a load and when setting it down. This is also critically important when stacking or racking pallets, which are other periods where many damages occur.
2. Use the Right Pallet
A product might fit on a pallet, but is that pallet designed to hold the weight of that product? Small differences in the pallet’s material dimensions and construction layouts can make big differences in its load-bearing capacity. Overloaded pallets or ones not designed for your application are more prone to breaking, cracking, or splintering, and are more easily damaged by improper forklift handling.
Distribution of weight is another important factor when it comes to using the right pallet. Even if a pallet is designed for the correct load, unevenly distributed weight can impact performance. Improper weight distribution can stress the pallet in ways it was not designed for, leading to failure. Using the Pallet Design System (PDS) can help ensure that pallets are properly loaded and capable of performing its intended purpose.
3. Fully Clear Pallet Before Turning
The most detrimental type of damage to a pallet is to the stringers or blocks. These are the pieces that hold the pallet together, and failure of the stringer or block components will immediately lead to a major loss in the pallet’s weight carrying capability. This particular type of damage is often caused by a forklift driver releasing a load and turning out of the pallet prematurely, which pushes the tines against the stringers, leading to strain and damage. Hardegree says forklift drivers must ensure that the tines are fully removed from the pallet before turning out of the pallet.
4. Do Not “Train” Pallets
“Training” pallets means pushing them across the floor. Pallets are not designed to pushed along the ground, and doing so can put undue lateral stress on the pallet, undermining its load bearing capacity. Training can also physically damage the pallet’s components, making parts of the pallet weaker and increasing the chances of failure.
5. Do Not Short-Fork Pallets
Short-forking is when the tines of the forklift are not fully inserted into a pallet before it is lifted. Make sure the front of the forklift’s mast is as close to the pallet and product as possible, and that the pallet is not sitting on the tips of the tines. A pallet is designed to support the weight of the product while being carried with the tines fully inserted. When the tines are not fully inserted, extra pressure is put on the pallet’s deck boards and nails, stressing the pallet and making failure or damage more likely. Pallets are also more prone to slipping and falling when short-forked, especially when being handled in a hurried manner.
6. Space Tines Correctly
Forklift tines should fit easily and evenly into a pallet, not making contact with any part of the pallet until the load is lifted. When improperly spaced, tines can hit the stringers or blocks, causing damage and detrimentally affecting a pallet’s performance. Ensuring tines don't impact the middle or outside pallet supports will make your pallets last longer. Using pallets with beveled stringers will also reduce this issue, as it helps guide the tines into the pallet.
7. Spread Tines Before Lifting
Before lifting a pallet, the forklift's tines should be placed as far apart as possible in order to spread the load. If the forklift has an automatic tine spacing capability, then the tines can be spread after entry into the pallet. If tine spacing has to be done manually, spread should be done before entry into the pallet. Proper spacing makes the pallet and load more stable, and reduces the stress placed on the pallet.
8. Color Tines for Visibility
Coloring the tops and tips of the tines helps forklift drivers see them better through the pallet. This is useful from a safety perspective, not only because the driver will be more aware of the reach of the tines, but also because the tines will be more visible to those around the forklift. Additionally, in the event of damage, the paint may rub onto pallets or products and help identify what caused the damage. If different colors are used for each forklift, identifying the forklift and operator involved will be much easier.
9. Stack Pallets Evenly
Pallets are meant to be stacked evenly. Just as one has to ensure the product’s weight is properly distributed across the pallet, one should make sure the pallets are squared and line-up together when stacking. Doing so will prevent certain parts of the pallet, like the corners and lead boards, from having uneven weight on them. A centered and squared stack of pallets also prevents the leaning and falling of pallets, which is a major safety hazard.
10. Declutter Warehouse
This approach is not as quick and easy as the others, but can be extremely effective in some warehouse layouts. The more open space inside the warehouse, the fewer things a forklift operator can bump into or have to maneuver around. This limits the risk of damage to pallets by making jolts and impacts less likely.
Additionally, the floor should clean and free of debris. Forklifts can shake and bounce when running over wood scrap and other debris. This not only puts your drivers at potential risk, but also puts pallets under sudden stress as they bounce on the tines. Bouncing also puts pallets and their products at risk of falling, which can increase shrink and cause worker injuries.
These ten tips from Atlanta Operations Manager Casey Hardegree should reduce your rates of pallet damage, extend your pallet lifecycle and improve your bottom line. We institute these policies in our own network of facilities to ensure our pallets remain in the best quality possible for our customers, and many of these tips also increase worker safety. For more information on pallet handling and design best practices, talk to our experts!
Pallet Consultants is a national pallet manufacturer offering a wide variety of pallet products including recycled pallets, specialty pallets, custom-sized pallets, new pallets and more. We provide quality pallets and pallet retrieval services to industries around the country. Start a conversation with our expert team to see how we can meet the pallet needs of your operation.