As tight pallet markets continue to result in some degree of pallet substitution, material handlers should be mindful of limitations imposed by novel pallets in supply chains
June 14, 2022, 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. During this prolonged supply chain crunch, when shippers continue to look for creative solutions to meet their pallet needs, it makes sense to include them in 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. Over the last year, there has been considerable press devoted to the pallet shortage that has led shippers to look for alternative pallet solutions. While the pallet supply situation has improved somewhat, 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 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 safely 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. Product suppliers for some customers are 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 worker 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, it may require a change to pallet wrapping or more delicate handling. Changes may introduce new risks to worker safety, so it is important to alert material handlers to those risks and train them appropriately.
Resources available for National Forklift Safety Day
Pallet safety aside, Industrial Truck Association’s ninth annual National Forklift Safety Day will take place on Tuesday, June 14 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. For the first time, the event will be hybrid, with in-person and virtual attendance options. The event serves as an opportunity for forklift manufacturers to highlight the safe use of forklifts, the value of operator training, and the need for daily equipment checks.
For the first time, the Industrial Truck Association’s event will be hybrid, with in-person and virtual attendance options.
Open to everyone, National Forklift Safety Day registration is now open on ITA’s website. To register to attend in person or virtually, please visit the website. The format will remain the same as past years’ events with presentations from government representatives, safety experts, and industry representatives.
The speakers for National Forklift Safety Day 2022 include:
- Chuck Pascarelli, President, Americas, Hyster-Yale Group (Chairman, ITA Board of Directors)
- Douglas Parker, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
- Jonathan Dawley, President and CEO, KION North America, (Chairman, National Forklift Safety Day 2022)
- Lorne Weeter, Senior Vice President, NA Customer Service, Dematic
- Brian Duffy, Director of Corporate Environmental and Manufacturing Safety, Crown Equipment Corporation
“ITA has been the voice of the industrial truck industry for over 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.”
As National Forklift Safety Day nears, more information and updates will be made available on ITA’s website at https://indtrk.org/national-forklift-safety-day.