In a year marred by pallet supply challenges, material handlers must be alert to limitations imposed by novel pallets in supply chains
June 8, 2021, marks National Forklift Safety Day in the United States. Once again the lift truck industry is doing a commendable job in promoting forklift and operator safety through a variety of educational events and promotions. This year, in particular, however, it might be prudent to bring pallets into the conversation.
Here’s the thing. When things change in your materials handling system, it is important – a legal requirement- to identify, assess and address significant new risks. Now, some companies are being forced to change gears and adapt to available pallets rather than their normal pallet. There has been considerable press devoted to the pallet shortage, particularly in the agriculture and fresh produce sectors. Given the present pallet shortage and reports of pallet substitution, National Forklift Safety Day seems like an ideal opportunity to remind supply chain participants to keep the pallet in mind as a component of their forklift safety program.
A partnership over 100 years in the making
Forklift and pallet go way back. They have enjoyed an enduring partnership, over a century in the making. In the early days, spacers were placed between unit loads to enable the entry of the lift platform for the placement or removal of loads. The practice of the forklift operator leaning outside the lift truck to place the spacers between loads before lowering was in itself was a very risky practice, one that would become redundant with the attachment of the vertical spacers to a deck to create the skid. It was a breakthrough that would allow the operator to remain in the truck.
The development of the center stringer or stringers reduced deck board span, requiring pallet forks rather than a single lift platform. And the addition of the bottom deck to the pallet resulted in the creation of the pallet. The stacking of loads became safer and more efficient. Fast forward many decades and pallet specifications have been established and honed with time to meet a plethora of today’s pallet use cases. To find out more about the early development of the pallet, read What Came First, The Pallet Or The Forklift.
A different pallet can introduce unforeseen risks
Pallet specifications have become commonly accepted in many supply chains over time, as well as having become standard practice when prescribed by a rental pool operator or pallet user, for example. Perhaps the product supplier is obligated to demonstrate through pallet design software such as Best Pallet or PDS that the pallet meets the requirements of the application. Introducing a new pallet without undertaking due diligence can lead to potential performance and safety issues.
Engage material handlers and other supply chain stakeholders in the conversation
When significant changes are introduced to the pallets in your supply chain, a dialogue with trading partners and company material handlers is warranted.
Make sure to communicate intended pallet changes to trading partners to ensure that the modified pallet will be compatible with their material handling systems, including storage systems, conveyors, other automation, or retail delivery, for example.
Material handlers should be alerted to changes to the pallet, and understand any limitations that would compromise safety. For instance, understand the load capacity of the loaded pallet before attempting to rack it, etc., or enhance sanitation if you anticipate an increased generation of wood splinters on the warehouse floor because of a lower grade pallet. Another consideration, if the pallet is more slippery (lower coefficient of friction), the operator should be apprised of the issue and drive more slowly to reduce the risk of spilling a load. Changes can compromise worker safety, so it is important to alert material handlers to those hazards and train them to act in a manner that reduces risk.
Resources available for National Forklift Safety Day
Pallet safety aside, the eighth annual National Forklift Safety Day will take place virtually on June 8, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. EDT. National Forklift Safety Day serves as an opportunity for forklift manufacturers and the industry to highlight the safe use of forklifts, the value of operator training, and the need for daily equipment checks.
Open to the public, National Forklift Safety Day will be available for viewing by visiting the Industrial Truck Association’s website (www.indtrk.org) or DC Velocity’s website (www.dcvelocity.com). Pre-registration is recommended, but not required, at http://www.indtrk.org/national-forklift-safety-day. The format for 2021 will follow previous events with presentations from government representatives, safety experts and industry representatives.
The speakers for National Forklift Safety Day 2021 include:
• Brian Feehan, President, Industrial Truck Association
• Jay Gusler, ITA Chairman of the Board and Executive Vice President Operations, Mitsubishi Logisnext Americas
• Joseph Hughes, Jr., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pandemic and Emergency Response, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
• Tony Sciarrotta, Executive Director and Publisher, The Reverse Logistics Association
• Jess Dankert, Vice President for Supply Chain, Retail Industry Leaders Association
• Mike Field, NFSD Task Force Chair and President and CEO, The Raymond Corporation
“ITA has been the voice of the industrial truck industry for more than 70 years,” said Brian Feehan, president of ITA. “We understand there is a critical need for effective forklift operator training, and ITA’s National Forklift Safety Day is meant to keep that discussion at the forefront year after year.”
The importance of forklift safety cannot be underestimated. This year, let’s also be mindful of pallet changes in your supply chain.