ARE HAND PALLET TRUCKS PUTTING YOUR BUSINESS AT RISK?

Have you ever wondered just how safe your hand pallet trucks are? Because you might well just be breaking the official guidelines…

Independent research indicates that moving a load of just 500 kg could mean you’re breaking the law. With government figures showing that using a hand pallet truck runs a much greater risk of injury than previously thought.

To help you understand if your business is at risk, we’ll be exploring and explaining the legislation behind staying safe. We will also be revealing shocking research findings on operator stress levels and give you valuable tips on staying safe and legal. Plus, we will help you choose the right equipment for you business and location.

So, shall we get started?

YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS AN EMPLOYER

When you started your business, you knew you would be taking on extra responsibilities. As an employer, it is your duty to maintain the well-being of your employees. When it comes to lifting and shifting heavy loads, it is your responsibility to provide the right equipment, training and person for the job.

Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the one-off incidents or injuries that you should be avoiding. You need to be more aware of the gradual and calmative effect of heavy lifting on a worker’s musculoskeletal system. Long wearing injuries can do damage to the smooth running of your business. 

Workers exposed to the risk of carrying or moving heavy loads for at least a quarter of their working time. (Source: 4th European Working Conditions Survey – 2005)

According to the HSE, the UK agency for Health and Safety, more than one third of all injuries requiring at least three days off from work are caused by manual handling. This includes lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying. On average, each sufferer took 20 days off in a 12-month period. This is obviously a massive inconvenience to your operations and a blow to your productivity.

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO HAND PALLET TRUCKS?

Realistically, if your workers are moving loads frequently, and/or shifting any loads greater than 500kg, you should be considering swapping your hand pallet truck for a battery-powered version. In the first of these scenarios, it is the cumulative strain that needs to be avoided. In the case of heavy loads, it is the effort involved in starting and stopping a load – and keeping it in motion – that is the key issue.

The official guideline figure for starting or stopping a load is about 20kg for men. This is typically the maximum weight for a suitcase at an airport check-in before you pay for excess baggage. Or 15kg for women. The acceptable figure for keeping a load in motion is 10kg for men and about 7kg for women. But how does that work in practice?

HOW MUCH EFFORT DO YOU NEED TO USE A HAND PALLET TRUCK?

Independent researchers tested 17 different makes of hand pallet trucks in order to obtain an accurate average across a wide range of manufacturers moving loads of 500kg and 2000kg.

The results were conclusive – and shocking.

Starting a 500kg load from stationary takes, on average, an effort of 23.3kg. Increase the load to 2000kg (2 tonne) and the force required is 49.6kg – massively greater than the official guidelines mentioned earlier.

Raising a 2000kg load on a pallet truck is also very demanding – it taken an average force of 35.1 kg (again much higher than the guideline). Even keeping a 2 tonne load in motion – at 30.7kg – exceeds the guidelines by a whopping 53.3%.

DANGER IN THE LORRY

Operating hand pallet trucks in the confines of a lorry (and its hydraulic lifting platform) requires careful consideration. While keeping an average 700kg load in motion demands up to 18kg of force – 80% more than guidelines – stopping that same mass on the hydraulic lift platform requires nearly twice the effort.

Exposure to rain water increases this risk further. For maximum control, we recommend fitting the hand pallet truck with a rubber steering wheel and a manual brake.

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A BATTERY POWERED PALLET TRUCK?

It makes sense to purchase a reputable brand. The build quality is likely to be superior. Besides, the dealer supplying you the equipment should be able to advise you on the appropriate capacity. Plus, they’ll be able to advise on the best type of wheels for your particular application. For example, softer tyres are better for slippery conditions but wear more quickly. Composites such as Vulkollan make a great general purpose tyre which is very durable. We can work with you to determine what you need.

Whilst you’re looking at battery powered pallet trucks, look for features such as a tiller arm that always returns smoothly into the upright position. You should also check the brake bypass function, it should allow creep speed operations whilst the tiller arm is in the upright position. For maximum stability even with high loads and on sharp turns, look for a battery powered pallet truck with linked castor wheels.

To ensure extra safety and usefulness, make sure your battery powered pallet truck has a generous lifting height. This will prove to be convenient when on ramps and loading docks, especially with damaged pallets. You should also be able to easily switch the performance modes to suit the drivers abilities and the different operating conditions.

To prevent water and dirt getting into the inside of the truck, you should look for a battery powered pallet truck that has a closed chassis. This will require fewer repairs, a longer working life and a nice bonus, lower running costs.

Lastly, check that it has heavy duty forks for greater durability. As well as oil filled transmission for quiet running, more reliability and lower maintenance. Plus get a battery powered pallet truck with an electronic pump control to ensure it’s smoother and quieter than the old-fashioned contractors.

If you would like an assessment of whether you should be switching to a powered pallet truck… and advice on the correct specification, please click here.

THE WELFAUX CONCLUSION

Unless you can reduce the size of each load to 500kg or less, whilst also minimising the number of operations, the only realistic (and legal) option is to mechanise the handling process by switching from a hand pallet truck to a battery electric power pallet truck.

The big bonus is that you’ll increase the speed of the operation. And reduce the risk of time off from health problems such as lower back pain.