An alarming number of employee accidents and injuries are associated with forklift operations. Many of these are a result of poorly stacked materials that topple and damage property or injure people. Stacking boxes, bagged goods, and similar items is usually thought to be an uncomplicated job. Yet, like most tasks that are considered to be easy, a lack of attention or knowledge can create safety problems.
The stability of a stack is probably the number one concern. If a stacked load is going to be moved, with a forklift or pallet jack for example, you can see that the inevitable jostling may cause items to fall. But what about stacks that are not to be moved? Stability is still important. An earthquake or an accidental bump could cause something to fall.
For a load to be stable, its base must be stable. This means you have to start building the stack on a firm, level surface. If a pallet is used, inspect it to be sure it’s in good repair. If not, don’t use it! Though it seems obvious, make sure everyone on the crew knows the difference between “good” and “bad” pallet repair.
Place larger and heavier objects at the bottom. If the packaging material is compressible, pay attention to the printed instructions on the box that advise how many units can be stacked. If you go higher, the weight could cause the lower boxes to crush, creating an unstable stack and damaging goods in the boxes. If the product is bagged, be sure the contents are evenly distributed in the bag as you lay it down. This creates a flat surface for the next tier. Interlock the units as you build the load. Your supervisor can show you how this is done.
Some stacks are going to be inherently stable. An example would be a stack of rectangular, interlocked boxes with the base of the stack wider than the height. Other stacks are inherently unstable. An example would be square boxes that cannot be interlocked. Such stacks must be tied or wrapped to increase stability.
Watch the total weight of objects or containers you stack. If the load is going to be moved by a forklift or pallet jack, the total weight must not exceed the capacity of the equipment. Also know the weight bearing capacity of floors and shelves, and do not exceed these capacities. Spread the load out so the weight is not concentrated in one area.
Do not contribute to a lift truck mishap. Pay careful attention, and take pride in having an accident free, injury free record.