Avoid Pallet Damage From Forklifts | 10 Tips From Our Operations Manager | Pallet Consultants
Pallets cost you money, and damaged pallets cost even more. Primarily, pallets are damaged by less than ideal forklift operation. An easy way to limit unnecessary pallet damage is to retrain forklift operators, and inform them of the importance of using proper pallet handling techniques. Use the insights below from our Atlanta Operations Manager, Casey Hardegree as a part of forklift operator training:
Use the Right Pallet
This may sound like obvious advice, but it is not as intuitive as one might think. 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 are more prone to breaking, snapping, 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 load weight being put on it, is the load’s weight being properly distributed? Improper distribution of weight across the pallet can stress the pallet’s design capabilities, leading to failure. Using the Pallet Design System (PDS) can help ensure that pallets are properly loaded and capable of performing for its intended purpose.
For more information, read our other blog post on Pallet Weight and Capacity.
This is probably the MOST important tip when it comes to limiting forklift damage, and it goes hand-in-hand with the other suggestions. When one slows down, there is more time to properly space the tines, more time to avoid short-forking the pallets, and more time to pay attention to how the pallet is being handled. Additionally, slowing down prevents the mast, tines, or other parts of the lift from slamming into the pallet and/or product. Taking it slow and easy 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.
Fully Clear the Pallet Before Turning Out
The most detrimental type of damage to a pallet is to the stringers. These are the pieces that hold the pallet together, and failure of the stringer components will immediately lead to a major loss in the pallet’s weight carrying capability and possible collapse of the pallet itself. 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 stringer, leading to damage. One must ensure that the forks are fully removed from the pallet before continuing on and turning out of the pallet.
Do Not “Train” Pallets
“Training” pallets means pushing them across the floor. Not training pallets, or not pushing pallets across the floor, can save pallets from damage. Pallets are not designed to be scrubbed along the ground, and doing so can put undue lateral stress on the pallet, which undermines its load bearing capacity. Training can also physically damage the pallet’s components, making parts of pallet weaker, and ultimately leading to pallet failure.
Do Not Short-Fork the Pallet
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, they put undue pressure on the pallet’s deck boards and nails, leading to pallet failure. Deck boards and their nails are not designed to wholly hold the weight on any pallet.
When short-forking, the pallet is also more prone to slipping and falling, especially when being handled in a rushed or hurried manner.
Ensure Forklift Tines are Spaced Correctly
Tines are the part of the forklift that typically causes damage to a pallet. Tines should fit easily and evenly into a pallet, not making contact with any part of the pallet until lifting the load. When improperly spaced, tines can hit the stringers of a pallet causing damage and detrimentally affecting a pallet’s performance. Taking time to ensure the tines are properly spaced will make your pallets last longer. Buying pallets with beveled edges on the stringers will also ease this problem, as it helps guide the tines into the pallet.
Spread Tines Before Lifting
Tines should be spaced out as far as possible, while still being able to easily and evenly enter a pallet. If the forklift has automatic tine spacing capability, then the tines can be spread after entry into the pallet. If tine spacing has to be done manually, then spread the forks before entry into the pallet. This should be done so the weight of the pallet is more evenly distributed across the flat surface of the tines. This makes the pallet and load more stable, and adds longevity to the pallet.
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, by painting the tines, in the event of damage, the paint may rub-off onto the pallets and/or products, and help identify what caused the damage. If different colors are used for each forklift, then identifying what forklift and what driver was involved will be much easier.
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. Having a centered and squared stack of pallets also prevents the leaning and falling of pallets, which is a major safety hazard.
Declutter Warehouse Space and Floor
This approach is not as quick and easy as the others, but it is extremely effective. The more space inside the warehouse to operate, the fewer things a driver may bump into or have to maneuver around, which limits the risk of damage to pallets.
Also, make sure the floor is clean and free of debris. Forklifts, especially when carrying a load, can shake and bounce around when running over wood scrap and other debris. This not only puts your drivers at potential risk, but also puts pallets under stress as they bounce around on the tines. Bouncing also puts pallets and products at risk of falling, which is not good for worker safety or the bottom line.
Pallet Consultants has over 20 years of experience in the pallet industry, and with our expert team of pallet engineers we can help with any pallet problem. From making sure one has the right pallet (as seen in tip #1), to ensuring pallets are being handled properly, Pallet Consultants is there. We specialize in unit load consultation, new and recycled pallets manufacturing, total pallet management systems, and heat treatments for export. Pallet Consultants can do it all anywhere in the country!