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Manufacturing: Pallet Jack Safety

A pallet jack—also referred to as a pallet truck, pallet pump, etc.—is the most basic type of forklift. Pallet jacks are designed to reduce the strain of manual lifting and improve efficiency in the workplace. There are two main types of pallet jacks: manual and powered. Common types of powered pallet jacks include walk-behind and ride-on. These fall into OSHA’s powered industrial trucks category and have more specific requirements for operation. You can find more information on powered pallet jack requirements under OSHA 1910.178. Manual pallet jacks are hand-powered and must be maneuvered solely by the power of the employee. Manual pallet jacks help workers but, if not used properly, they can lead to damaged equipment and serious injuries.
 
Training
Any powered pallet jack operator must meet all training requirements under OSHA 1910.178. Employees who will operate manual pallet jacks should be trained on the suggested topics below:

  • How to properly inspect the pallet jack prior to operation
  • How to operate the pallet jack with a hands-on portion
  • Specific company policies for pallet jack use (who, when, where)
  • How to recognize unsafe loads
  • A review of the manufacturer guidelines
  • Proper body positioning when using the pallet jack
  • Proper load placement

Pallet Jack Inspection

  • Inspect pallet jacks at the beginning of the day and each shift.
  • Check steering, controls, forks, and any other components.
  • Look for oil spots on floor or leaks.
  • Observe the wheels; ensure they are not worn out or damaged (to prevent poor handling and reduce the risk of unstable loads).
  • A defective pallet jack should not be used and reported to the supervisor.

Work Area Inspection

  • Plan and walk the path prior to operation.
  • Remove any obstacles in the path and block off intersections as needed.
  • Look for water or slick spots.
  • Evade rocks, cracks, and divots in floor surface.
  • Barricade large drop-offs, like those by loading docks.
  • Avoid inclines/declines.

PPE

  • Gloves and proper foot protection should always be worn.
  • Additional PPE may be needed for specific loads.

Body Position

  • Always stand behind the load and handle.
  • Use two hands to control the pallet jack.
  • No body parts should ever be placed underneath the load.
  • Practice proper lifting techniques when loading/unloading the pallet.
  • Push the load, if possible, and avoid pulling the pallet jack.

Proper Use

  • Never operate a pallet jack unless properly trained.
  • Always use both forks to lift a load.
  • Communicate with other personnel, use a spotter when needed.
  • Keep forks close to ground and practice wide turns.
  • Avoid jerky and sudden movements or stops.
  • Always be on the uphill side of the load.
  • Never ride/skate on a pallet jack or allow passengers.
  • Never leave a load “jacked up,” always rest the forks on the ground.
  • Do not block emergency exits or equipment.
  • Stay within manufacturer load limits.
  • Be aware of 360-degree clearance.
  • Put pallet jack away in designated storage area.

Common Mishaps

  • Tipped loads from uneven floors, inclines, obstacles.
  • Trips over forks.
  • Crushed toes.
  • Damage and injuries from collisions.
  • Strains, sprains, and dislocations from forceful movements.

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