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Pallet stacking: know the rules

  • 10 April 2014
  • By Justin Stanton

Workplace deaths caused by incorrectly stacked pallets emphasise the need for effective health and safety procedures to be  implemented by operators. With their increasing use and benefits, it is important the safety risk to employees exposed to them is minimised, writes Tim Hill, partner, solicitor advocate, at Eversheds.

The handling of heavy goods involves the use of equipment such as counter-balanced trucks and pallet trucks, and employers have to comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. These stipulate that lifting equipment and its components must be of adequate stability and strength and marked clearly with its safe workload. Lifting operations must be properly planned and supervised, undertaken by competently trained personnel, and the equipment must be constructed in a way that is fit and safe for its intended purpose and used accordingly.

These obligations apply to anyone who uses, supervises, manages or has any control of equipment used for  lifting or lowering loads at work.

The HSE has provided guidance, the Safe use of lifting equipment: Approved code of practice (Acop), to encourage compliance, as well as guidance for organisations, entitled Safety in the Use of Pallets. The HSE advises that accidents directly attributable to pallets usually arise from:

  • poor design;
  • poor construction;
  • inferior materials;
  • the use of a pallet that is unsuitable for a particular load;
  • handling or storage method;
  • smaller euro-pallets being mixed with UK pallets in racking systems;
  • using a damaged pallet;
  • bad handling and use in an unsuitable environment.

Source of risk
Businesses dealing with pallets should evaluate whether action is required in relation to these sources of risk by observing practices in their organisation. Training and rules on the organisation, policy and method of handling pallets should be implemented and monitored and evaluated regularly.

The environment in which the pallets are handled should be thoroughly assessed, particularly the suitability of the flooring and
the strength of walls or shelving. It should also be ensured that all equipment used for transportation and lifting is suitable for the type of pallet or load being handled, and that the type of pallet being used is the most appropriate available for the type of load.

The height and weight of the load is of central importance when assessing the best method of handling the pallets. As a  general rule, the height of the load should not exceed the longest base dimension of the pallet.

A pattern should be established for pallet handling to achieve maximum stability and safety. Fork-lift trucks should only be operated by trained personnel who should ensure, among other things, that they insert the fork of any handling device at least 75% of the way into every pallet. All pallets should be checked for defects and particular attention should be paid to the bottom board, especially when they are lifted within storage and retrieval machines.

Checklists should be provided as a guide for procedures such as pallet inspection, packaging and loading. This will help to ensure compliance with the relevant health and safety duties and reduce the risk of workplace fatalities and injuries.

  • Tim Hill is a partner, solicitor advocate, at Eversheds LLP. Contact him on 0845 497 6473, 07740157416 or email
  • Commercial Motor’s Compliance and Best Practice Bulletin is sponsored by Tachodisc. To sign up to receive the monthly bulletin, go to the Compliance homepage.


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