Poll: Are Pallets Guilty by Association?

Full disclosure, when I am in a warehouse, I typically talk about a unit load as a pallet. It is a common practice, and I do it because people are more likely to understand what I am saying than if I used a term such as unit load. But maybe I’ve been wrong in enabling such usage.

This August, a small boy was badly injured at a Virginia Sam’s Club when jugs of water fell from above. He suffered a compound fracture to one arm, and everyone hopes he will have a full recovery. The headline in USA Today read, Child injured after pallet of water falls from Va. Sam’s Club shelf.  For what it is worth, the pallet was shown in news photos and seemed to be intact, and by presumably not a cause of the accident.

I’m probably overly sensitive, but when I read headlines in the news about pallets of something (choose a product) resulting in injury or more tragically, a fatality, I feel like the pallet is being called into question at a minimum, and perhaps worse.  Are pallets guilty by association?

Do dish manufacturers feel similar angst if someone gets sick from a bowl of soup or a plate of chili? Probably not, unless there is obvious evidence of something leaching from the dishes. It is probably a poor comparison. One of the key functions of a pallet is to support merchandise, and if the goods come crashing down, then the pallet is going to be called into question as part of the investigation.

When unit loads fail and tragedies occur, the headline phrasing often involves a pallet. For example, in recent months we have headlines relating to pallets and fatalities including terms such as “strawberry pallets” and “concrete pallet.” The pallet itself may not have anything to do with an injury, but the failure of a unit load is typically attributed to a pallet loaded with some type of merchandise.

My concern has to do with whether such headlines unfairly represent pallets to the public and harm the industry. Also, it has to do with whether the public, as well as workers who operate in proximity to unit loads, would be better served by modestly more instructive terms. Perhaps we would collectively benefit from usage such as unit load, and the elements that comprise the unit load, including packaged product and stabilizers, such as wrap, in addition to the pallet. Such terminology might aid in more effective hazard communication to shoppers or employees who shop or work in the proximity of unit loads, if for example, packaging or loads are seen to be bulging, leaking or leaning.

So much for the preamble. Please take the 60-second survey at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XLM8ZG9