Home > Safety Focus: Avoiding musculoskeletal injuries when handling empty wooden pallets

Safety Focus: Avoiding musculoskeletal injuries when handling empty wooden pallets

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article image PACKSPEC's paperboard pallets are made from 100% recycled cardboard, and weigh only 6.5kg
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In the first part of this series, we discussed some of the potential injuries workers may suffer when manually stretchwrapping pallets. Here we will focus again on pallet-related manual handling activities, though this time turning our attention to the problems faced by workers when handling and stacking empty wooden pallets.

As with stretchwrapping, WorkSafe Victoria notes that manual handling and stacking empty pallets requires high forces, and for workers to assume poor postures and movements. This can cause musculoskeletal injuries particularly to the back, shoulders, wrists and forearms, which can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time.

WorkSafe suggests that the most pertinent solution to this problem is to eliminate the need for workers to manually shift pallets altogether. This can be achieved by:
  • installing a mechanical pallet stacker; or
  • using forklifts, overhead cranes or other mechanical aids such as a wide straddle pallet mover and lifter.
Linde Material Handling stocks a range of pedestrian pallet stackers that are designed to be highly manoeuvrable and versatile. Suitable for medium lift and storage applications, these stackers can move and stack pallets to a height of 3,810mm.

Another company on Ferret.com.au that provides stackers and lifters is Spacepac Industries . Spacepac stocks a complete range of manual and electric forklifts, walkie stackers, traction stackers, platform lifters, hydraulic reach forks and automatic pallet positioners.

Where it is not practicable to use heavier machinery, WorkSafe suggests using:
  • hand pallet jacks
  • lighter weight softwood or plastic pallets; or
  • a hook to pull lighter weight pallets up to vertical.
Alternatives to wooden pallets have increased in popularity over the last few years, with several companies developing lighter and more sustainable plastic and paperboard pallets.

CHEP Australia 's lightweight plastic pallets offer a number of benefits over conventional wooden pallets. With no nails or splinters, they are easier and safer to handle, while weighing only 34kg. Being porous, wooden pallets can also weigh more when they are waterlogged, a problem that is eliminated with CHEP's non-porous plastic pallets.

For those looking for a safer pallet alternative that is also manufactured from sustainable materials, PACKSPEC provides paperboard pallets. Manufactured from 100% recycled cardboard, these pallets are a low cost, high strength alternative to wooden pallets, and weigh only 6.5kg each.

In the next part of this series, we will continue to discuss pallet handling activities, this time turning to manually loading and unloading objects onto or from pallets, and the associated risks.

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