Pallet Trucks: How to Operate Them & the Recommended Safety Precautions
Pallet trucks are one of the most essential tools found on construction sites and in warehouses. They’re more affordable and easier to operate than forklifts, while still removing the strain that comes with carrying heavy materials with manual labor. So, whenever you need to move large and heavy things, a pallet truck will usually be your go-to choice.
If you’re in the market for a brand new pallet truck, you can find either a manual and electric pallet truck for sale. Both types are suited for a wide range of applications, and your choice should depend on the scope and size of your project. If you’re considering investing in one of them, but aren’t quite sure on how to use them safely, follow these simple instructions.
Operating Manual Pallet Trucks
Manual pallet trucks, or also called pallet jacks, are more affordable and simpler than electric pallet jacks. They are also easier to maintain, making them a great choice for small and mid-sized construction sites and warehouses. In order to operate one, you’ll need to stand behind it with your hands on the metal steering handle toward the outward-facing prongs. The prongs are the two horizontal metal pieces that will be doing the lifting. Find the plastic release lever located on the handle, which is usually attached to the centre bar, and engage the lever to lower the prongs.
Then, push the pallet jack over to the pallets you want to move, and press the release lever up and inward to lower the prongs to about 2-3cm off the ground. If they’re already lowered, they won’t move even if you press the lever. Next, slide the prongs underneath the pallet that you want to move. If they aren’t lowered all the way down and are too high to easily slide under the pallets, just press the release lever again. Make sure the prongs go completely underneath the pallet so that the wheels rest on the floor and not on any part of the pallet itself.
Once underneath the pallet, pull the metal handle and the whole centre bar toward you at an angle. You’ll feel some resistance and notice the prongs lift up the pallets slowly. Repeat this a few times until the prongs are high enough off the floor to not drag.
Operating Electric Pallet Trucks
Electric pallet trucks are more convenient to use than their manual counterparts, as jacking up the prongs is performed electronically. You’ll also find an electric pallet truck for sale with a ride-on feature that makes it easier to get around larger construction sites or warehouses.
To operate an electric jack pallet, you need to first unplug the pallet truck’s plug and place it inside the machine. Since they run on electricity, these models need to be charged when they aren’t in use, and they generally have an obvious location to place and store the power cord when in use.
Then, you’ll have to find the buttons that control the direction of movement. There’s usually a “down” button for lowering the prongs and an “up” button to lift the load once the prongs are underneath the pallets. There are also buttons for maneuvering the pallet truck that are pretty straightforward to use.
Safety Precautions for Using a Pallet Truck
Even though they’re pretty simple machinery, pallet trucks can still be dangerous without proper safety precautions being taken. For that reason, it’s always important to inspect the truck at the start of the work shift to make sure everything is functional and ready. You want to look for things such as unbalanced wheels, loose prongs or charging cords that aren’t properly stowed. Taking a few extra minutes to make sure the pallet truck is in proper working condition is key to preventing accidents and mishaps.
Next, make sure the path you’re about to take is clear of obstacles. Look for stray electric cords and construction materials. Also, make sure access to the pallet truck is restricted, especially electric models, as you want only authorised personnel to access and use them. Further, make sure the pallet truck is properly stored in a secure area that non-workers can’t access.
Other Important Considerations
The capacity of the pallet truck you choose is one of the most important considerations. Most models can handle up to 3.500kg, but make sure to check the weight capacity of the model you choose and stick to it. This is important not only for the obvious safety reasons, but to make sure the truck and the loads you’re handling don’t get damaged as well.
The weight of the pallet truck itself is also something worth considering, as when you’re moving loads around, you aren’t just moving their weight, but the weight of the load and the truck combined. This is especially important if you’re going to carry the pallet truck over container floors and vehicle trays.
Lastly, consider the lift height of the truck. The standard height is 7-8cm at the lowest point, up to a maximum of about 20cm. There are models that can lift higher than that, but it’s generally not necessary, as a lot of weight can tip the pallet truck over when the load is high off the ground.