New guideline to help pallet users improve safety "exponentially"

Feb 10, 2015

Wood palletA new safety guideline now in development will help wood pallet users improve safety performance "exponentially," says a member of the WSPS-facilitated industry group responsible for the guideline.

Around the world half a billion of these portable shipping platforms are made each year, and therein lies a key opportunity, explains Chris Byham, loss prevention advisor, health and safety & physical security for Best Buy Canada's Brampton, ON, distribution centre. A common understanding of best practices will help warehouses and distribution centres protect workers, prevent damage and improve productivity.

Byham is a member of the Distribution Centre Health & Safety Action Team, an industry group facilitated by WSPS that will publish early next year a best practices guideline for warehouses and distribution centres on internal use of wood pallets, including storage and maintenance. The scope encompasses all lumber-deck and panel-deck pallets (new, repaired or remanufactured), as well as their wood-based composites, engineered wood components and fasteners.

Pallet users are responsible for inspecting each pallet for damage prior to use and determining that the pallet design is appropriate for that particular unit load application. "While the majority of vendors will send the type of pallets you want," says action team member Phil Bond, health and safety manager for Metro Ontario Inc., "it only takes one non-standard or sub-standard pallet to put employees or products at risk."

Among the issues users face: are pallets capable of holding the required capacity? Can the pallets support the product weight as they go up into the racks? Can the pallets be transported safely and securely by whatever means users have to move the product around?

Proper storage is another concern, says Bond. "Wooden pallets are a potential fire hazard if you stack them too high because they can interfere with sprinkler systems. And if a stacked pallet collapses, the entire stack could fall over, resulting in serious and possibly fatal injury."

How the guide will benefit pallet users

Chris Byham plans to use the guide as an internal resource for employees who inspect and handle pallets, as well as a reference if unsuitable pallets still make their way into warehouses and distribution centres. "We'll be able to put into purchasing agreements that 'These are our racking locations, these are what the dimensions are, and these are the types of pallets we can receive.'"

"This will make it easier, safer and faster for us to move product and put it away," says Byham. "When product comes in on an unsuitable pallet, we often have to use our own manpower to depalletize the product, put it on a pallet that fits our racks, and rewrap it. This takes time and exposes our employees to additional hazards."

The group behind the guide

WSPS consultant and account manager Jennifer MacFarlane facilitates the Distribution Centre Health & Safety Action Team, which meets regularly to network over common health and safety concerns. "It's a natural combination of WSPS's health and safety expertise and the team members' industry experience," she says. "One of WSPS's ongoing goals is to bring community and business leaders together in ways that create a safer and more profitable Ontario."

For Chris Byham, "It's been really helpful to network with other distribution centres and share best practices. If any of us encounter deficiencies in our safety programs, we can reach out to the group for advice. It's also a forum for discussing upcoming changes to Ontario's prevention system, and how to respond. Between meetings, a lot of emails go back and forth."

New team members welcome

WSPS' Jennifer MacFarlane invites anyone interested in joining the Distribution Centre Health & Safety Action Team to attend an open house taking place during the Partners in Prevention 2015 Health & Safety Conference & Trade Show, April 28-29 in Mississauga. Contact MacFarlane for more information on the open house and the action team: (905) 614-1400 x2432; Jennifer.MacFarlane@wsps.ca.

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