Plastic pallets are among the most durable reusable packaging materials, as long as they are handled and cared for correctly. The Logistic Packaging team is always careful to instruct our customers on how to look after they new batch of pallets in order to maximize their useful life.
However, due to a series of questions raised by our customers, we feel that it is necessary to prepare this article on the proper way of handling plastic pallets with the forklift. From our experience and the statistical data we gathered from our post-sale inquiries, forklift damage is the most frequent type of damage in pallets.
Proper Forklift Operation Is the Key
The forklift is a very useful logistic machine, present in all warehouses and places where merchandize is loaded and unloaded. It helps workers handle heavy loads quickly, safely and efficiently. However, over-reliance in the capabilities of the machine is the cause of many forklift related incidents, including the damage caused to pallets.
This is why we prepared a list of basic best practices which your employees should always use when operating the forklift to handle pallets.
1. Always Use the Designated Bevels for Forklift Tines
Plastic pallets are designed with bevels (apertures) in their base to allow easy handling with the forklift. These bevels are placed on at least two sides of the pallets (for pallets with skids) or four sides (for pallets with legs) to allow various approaches with the forklift.
Lifting the pallet in any other way than through the bevels causes undue stress on its structure and leads to damages.
2. Use the Right Pallet Size for Your Merchandize
It may seem a good idea to purchase a pallet model one size bigger or of a heavy-duty category, just to be on the safe side. In fact, this is a bad idea, because each pallet is created for a specific type of load and for specific package footprints. If your load is not evenly distributed on the surface, or if there are gaps between boxes and totes, the pallet will be damaged after a series of lifting and setting down by the forklift.
Adding anti-slip mats is a solution to keep the stack of products stable, but it should be complemented by using pallets of the right size and load category for your merchandize.
3. Do Not Allow Employees to Pull or Drag Plastic Pallets with the Forklift
If the pallet needs to be brought a few feet closer to the trailer or to the unloading bay, the forklift operator must lift it and drive the forklift truck to the precise place. Pushing or dragging pallets on the ground (loaded or unloaded, it makes no difference) will only speed up their wear and tear.
4. Push the Tines All the Way Under the Pallet
If the pallets are empty, or have only a light load stacked on them, forklift operators are tempted to push the tines only halfway to save time. The seconds saved in this manner are outweighed by the extra costs for repairing or replacing damaged pallets. In all cases, instruct your employees to lift the pallets with the forklift tines fully placed under them.
5. Reduce the Forklift Speed Before Handling Pallets
Forklift trucks can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour. However, when handling merchandize (on a pallet or in a container) the operator should not exceed 8 mph (3 mph is the recommended speed for safety).
Losing control of the forklift is easy and it can cause a lot of damage when the tines slam into the plastic pallets. There is always the risk of injury if other employees are standing around the pallet, applying labels or ready to unload the products.
Last, but not least, remember that you should opt for plastic pallets with reinforced base and skids for vey heavy loads. The base is designed with various struts to bear the extra load, and the skids have metal bars inside them. But even in the case of these reinforced pallets the best practices described above by the Logistic Packaging experts must still be observed.