Even the highest quality, perfectly designed pallets can be dangerous if not handled correctly. This guide draws on recommendations from the Health and Safety Executive to highlight potential dangers and best practices when handling both loaded and unloaded pallets.
Stacking Loaded Pallets
To prevent the payload from distorting over time, ensure that you consider the load placed on the bottom pallet, as well as the capacity of baseboards, when stacking loaded pallets. This sort of distortion is known as ‘creep deflection’ and can affect various payloads. Powder can settle in bags, for example, or cardboard boxes can weaken as a result of moisture.
An established pattern should be used when loading pallets to ensure maximum safety and stability. Loads should be put on gradually and should be uniformly distributed unless specialist point loading pallets are being used.
As a general rule, the load height should not be greater than the pallet’s longest base dimension. Stretch-wrapping or shrink-wrapping can add to the security of the load by minimising movement and can allow you to increase the load height to close to the internal height of freight containers or closed vehicles.
Plastic Pallet Considerations
Empty plastic pallets and those in transit may require extra measures in order to ensure that they are safe and secure as a result of their slippery surfaces. Particular care should also be taken when transporting them using forklift trucks.
Safe Stacking Height
There are several factors that should be considered when determining the safest stacking height. These include pallet manufacturer instructions, particularly for plastic pallets, and the pallets’ payload. Other considerations include the stacking pattern being used and local conditions.
It is important that stacks are checked regularly, as stability can change as a result of alterations to the load and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity.
Stacking heights should also depend on the strength, stability and height of unit loads, along with the operator’s ability to see clearly. Under no circumstances should the maximum height be over six times the bottom pallet’s narrowest dimension, and there should still be other considerations, such as compression characteristics, the stacking pattern and the design of the pallet itself.
Racking can limit a load’s compression hazard, but pallets can then be put under additional stress. This is why loaded pallets are not suitable for storing in racking unless they are properly designed for the specific type of racking being used.