KION North America | Page 11

How to Properly Stack Pallets

In any warehouse you enter, you are likely to find wooden or plastic pallets that are used to store goods and materials. Pallets help warehouses make ample use of space and therefore become more efficient. While pallets are incredibly helpful to the warehouse, they can also be dangerous. If pallets are stacked or loaded improperly, they may become unbalanced and fall, leading to possible injury or even death. That is why it is extremely important for warehouse employees to know the proper methods for stacking pallets.

Before loading any materials onto a pallet, everything must be thoroughly inspected. The pallet itself needs to be in good condition, free of any damage, rotting, or other structural issues. Even if the pallet only seems to have a small issue, handling materials will take a toll on the pallet, worsening its condition and creating the potential for a dangerous incident to occur. Employees must also inspect the material to be loaded on the pallet, making sure it will fit and does not exceed the pallet’s weight limit. And of course, any equipment used to handle the pallet, such as a forklift, needs to be in safe working condition.

After inspecting the pallet, goods, and equipment, it is time to start loading. Balance is extremely important when it comes to the security of a stacked pallet, so make sure the weight of goods is evenly distributed. Materials should be stacked according to a uniform shape and size, which will make the stacks fairly even and level. Typically, the materials should be stacked in a square shape in order to make full use of the pallet. If the goods do not allow for a square shape, try to centralize the weight of the materials on the pallet to ensure stability.

It’s also important not to stack goods too high. The higher a stack goes, the more likely it is to topple and damage goods or injure people. The stack also needs to be short enough for the load to fit on the pallet rack. Overloading a pallet, whether by stacking too high or exceeding the pallet’s weight limit, is a recipe for disaster.

Once the materials have been loaded, they need to be secured. This is commonly done by securing the load with straps followed by stretch wrapping the entirety of the product in plastic.

Empty pallets often need to be stacked for storage between handling. Empty pallets need to be properly stored in order to keep clutter from accumulating in the warehouse and to avoid any accidents or injuries. The first important rule of stacking empty pallets is to always stack horizontally. While it may seem convenient to stick a few pallets vertically or on their side between piles of horizontal stacks, this can be extremely dangerous. When employees begin pulling those pallets, they risk the pallets stocked the opposite way catching and coming down too, which could cause serious injury.

Stacked pallets need to be loaded in an even, uniform manner. Pallets need to be stacked together according to size and weight, and never stacked crookedly. Not doing so can lead to danger when pulling pallets from storage. And similar to stacked goods, empty pallets stacked too high on one another risk toppling over.

Different stacking methods apply to different kinds of materials, but these general rules are an important basis for understanding safe pallet stacking methods. Make sure your warehouse employees are trained in the proper stacking methods, so that your warehouse can remain safe and incident-free.

How to Properly Load a Forklift

One of the most important aspects of forklift safety is properly loading and unloading the forklift’s load. An improperly loaded forklift can cause instability and potentially lead to an accident. Take the following steps when loading, operating, and unloading a forklift:

First, check the lift’s load limit, which can be found on its data plate, and make sure you are not exceeding the weight listed. An overloaded lift may result in tip over. Also try to distribute the weight of the load evenly, and spread the forks as widely as possible in order to do so.

When it comes to positioning the load, place it according to the recommended load center, and keep the load as close to the front wheels as possible. Be sure the load is secure and stable before moving, using the appropriate fixtures for the type of load, like a carpet spike or drum grappler. When lifting heavier loads, tilt the mast of the forklift back and keep the load close to the wheels to avoid the possibility of tipping. Also be sure to tip the mast back a bit before moving the lift.

Once you have the load in place and are ready to carry, keep the forks six to ten inches above the ground to avoid any potential hazards and keep the load tilted back. Do not raise or lower the load while in motion, travel at an appropriate speed, and be sure to stay aware of your surroundings, looking in the direction you’re moving.

When you are in position and ready to unload, move the load slowly into position. Check your surroundings to make sure you have adequate room for overhead clearance and have two to three inches of clearance at the sides and back of the load. Tilt the load forward and then lower it. Next, level the forks before pulling them back slowly.

Lastly, always be sure the lift and other required materials are up to date and aren’t damaged or deformed. Keeping up with proper maintenance schedules will ensure the forklifts are operating at their best.

While following these steps will help ensure safe and stable forklift operation, operators should be trained regarding the specific needs of their workplace and loading requirements.

Forklift Safety Training Tips for Your Warehouse

One of the most important aspects of operating an efficient warehouse is safety, especially when it comes to operating heavy machinery like forklifts. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has certain requirements that employers and warehouses must follow when it comes to forklift operation, and for good reason. Properly training and educating employees about forklift safety will help your warehouse to not only be safer, but also more productive. The fewer accidents that occur in your warehouse, the less it will cost you, whether saving on costs of repairing damages or insurance costs. Here are a few tips for developing a forklift safety training system in your warehouse.

Teach general safety and operation principles

There are many general tips for safely operating forklifts, regardless of make, model, or workplace conditions. These principles include proper loading and unloading methods, proper weight distribution, paying attention to load capacities, and more. Understanding the basics of forklift operation is the first step to a safe warehouse.

Tailor training to the specifics of your workplace and equipment

While understanding the general safety and forklift operation are necessary, employees need to be trained to the specific conditions of their workplace. Every warehouse operates differently and under different conditions. Equipment, practices, and organization vary from warehouse to warehouse, so what an operator may know from previous experience in warehouses or with forklifts will not necessarily apply in new conditions. Make sure your employees are trained to specifically operate the type of forklift used in your warehouse and are fully aware of the conditions of their workplace.

Educate more than just forklift operators

A common misconception about forklift safety training is that it only need apply to workers who will be operating the lifts. However, it is important for all warehouse workers to understand the dangers and safety precautions associated with forklifts. Even if an employee will not personally be operating a lift, every person working in the warehouse will be around forklifts, and is therefore at risk to the dangers such powerful machinery poses.

Evaluate safety methods and provide refresher training

Safety training is not a one and done system. Safety training should be adjusted as warehouses grow, adopt new equipment, or hire more workers. Therefore, warehouses need to frequently evaluate the safety methods in place and adapt accordingly. Especially if an accident has occurred or there has been any evidence of unsafe operation, warehouses need to provide refresher training for their employees.

Forklift safety is just one aspect of safety training that your warehouse needs to implement. Warehouses that provide comprehensive safety training for their employees are more productive, experience fewer accidents, and have higher job satisfaction. A safe warehouse is a successful warehouse, so kickstart your warehouse’s safety training with our tips today.  

Electric vs. Hydrogen Powered Forklifts

When it comes to operating an environmentally friendly warehouse, many debate between using electrically-powered versus hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts. Both are said to cut down on emissions and certain costs and serve as ideal options for indoor and closed spaces. But which option is better, electric or hydrogen? Here’s how the two compare.

As mentioned above, electric and hydrogen forklifts are the “green” forklift options because they don’t produce any harmful exhaust. Hydrogen fuel cells release water vapor into the air, which is either absorbed or stored in a reservoir. However, the sourcing of the hydrogen muddles the low emissions claim. Hydrogen is produced by reforming natural gas, a process that emits more CO2 into the atmosphere than simply burning the gas would. Because of this, electric forklifts are probably an environmentally better option.

Costs are also a divisive factor among manufacturers who prefer either electric or hydrogen. Electric forklifts have a lower cost per hour for operation and last longer compared to internal combustion systems. Electric also tends to be more affordable when it comes to routine maintenance.

While electric lasts longer than IC models and cost less to fuel, these models have higher upfront costs than IC models- sometimes 20-40% more. Another major issue regarding electric powered forklifts is the time and space the charging process requires. The battery life will likely last a standard 8-hour workday or 6 hours constant use, but a full recharge can take from 8 to 16 hours, with 8 hours to cool as well. Fast charge batteries are available, but can cost up to 20% more than standard issue.

In addition, if you need forklifts for multiple shift operations, you will need to purchase extra batteries and swap them out using a transporter in a battery changing station. The process can take 20 to 45 minutes and eat into both time and warehouse space.

Hydrogen-powered forklifts have electric beat when it comes to time, refueling in less than 3 minutes compared to upwards of 16 hours. But this option has its downsides as well. At first glance, hydrogen fuel cell forklifts do not seem like the most cost efficient method. The fuel costs are not cheap: hydrogen can cost twice as much as the price of an electric battery. The cost to repair equipment can also be staggeringly high.

However, many businesses have found that over time, the hydrogen method is more efficient and cost effective. They last longer, fuel in three minutes, and sustain power for a longer period of time. Companies like Walmart and Nestle Waters, with larger fleet sizes and high productivity, have found that using hydrogen-powered forklifts has lowered operational costs and increased worker productivity. While the initial investment is high, the return on investment can really pay off.

When it comes to choosing between electric and hydrogen-powered forklifts, it’s really up to your business to weigh out the costs and pros and cons of each method. Companies with the capital to initially invest in hydrogen fuel cells may find the method to their liking, as companies like Coca-Cola and Walgreens have, but electric-powered could be more economically sound for smaller companies.

For more information or questions regarding Electric or Hydrogen Powered Forklifts, reach out to a dealer near you.

Intro to Forklift Safety

Forklifts or Powered Industrial Trucks (PIT) were invented in 1906 to lift heavy materials. These machines are particularly helpful in a manufacturing setting where there are pallets or other heavy items to move. Using a forklift provides an easy way to move heavier items, while reducing the risk of hand, back, and neck injuries from actually personally lifting. While forklifts remain a useful tool, they can also be a dangerous tool if the forklift operator isn’t properly trained.

There are many different types of PITs on the market today. It’s important when purchasing a new PIT or bringing on a new Forklift operator to properly train all employees involved. Knowledge is power, and with such a powerful tool, accidents can happen. Common forklift accidents are being crushed by the vehicle, being wedged between the vehicle and a hard surface, being crushed between 2 vehicles, being ran over, being struck by falling material the forklift is carrying or lifting, and falling from the platform on the forks.  

According to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, “Approximately 35,000 serious injuries and 62,000 non-serious injuries involving forklifts occur in the United States every year. OSHA estimates 11% of all forklifts are involved in accidents every year.” Because driving a forklift is different from driving a car, it is required by OSHA that forklift operators go through the proper training to become certified and the operator’s performance must be reevaluated every three years. The employer must have a record of documentation that the training has occurred on file.

Proper safety training will include operating, maintenance, refueling/recharging batteries, operating limitations, use of proper attachments and weight distribution, and more. For more information on ensuring your employees are properly trained to operate a forklift vehicle, visit OSHA’s e-tools for more details and training materials.