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Who Can Operate Pallet Truck Equipment?

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Pallet jack operators must be taught and certified to use one safely.

  • A pallet jack is the most basic type of forklift, designed to transport loads.
  • An uncertified operator jeopardizes employee safety in the workplace.
  • Use established traffic lanes and exercise caution to avoid collisions at corners.

Who Can Operate a Pallet Jack?

OSHA considers electric pallet jacks to be powered industrial trucks (PITs), classifying them as class III, hand and rider forklifts. As a result, operators must be taught and certified to use one safely. Only licensed and trained drivers will be permitted to operate such vehicles and equipment.

What Are Pallet Jacks?

A pallet jack is the most basic type of forklift, designed to transport pallets in a warehouse or trailer. Pallet jacks are among the most important items found in warehouses, and they are used to carry small loads over short distances.

While they may appear to be simple and safe, pallet jacks are powerful, transport heavy loads, and can cause injury and property damage if not used and properly maintained. Therefore, operating and using a pallet jack must not be considered a thoughtless task. 

Throughout the rest of this article, we will be discussing the different responsibilities that come with operating a pallet jack as well as why equipment maintenance is so important. 

Why Is the Pallet Jack Considered a Powered Industrial Truck?

OSHA defines a powered industrial truck as any mobile power-propelled equipment used to lift, move, haul, carry, stack, or tier items. Pallet jacks fit this description, which is why they are considered forklifts. Pallet jacks are battery-powered and can be one of two designs:

  1. Walk-behind pallet jack
  2. Ride-on pallet jack

Pallet Jack Operators & Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of a pallet jack operator is transporting loads using an electric pallet jack. Employees must move various items as necessary and assist other departments with this work. Here are some responsibilities derived from actual pallet jack operators that reflect the everyday tasks they would take on:

  • Pick orders and ensure that they are correct.
  • Check product labels to ensure that the content is correct.
  • Safely transport the items to the delivery pallets.
  • Identify damage and indicate shortages or poor quality.
  • Carry out various warehouse operations, such as restocking pick locations.
  • Labeling and sorting of the selected merchandise
  • Inspect machinery to see whether it requires repairs.

OSHA Pallet Jack Safety Requirements

As discussed earlier, OSHA considers pallet jacks to be PITs. Because of this, pallet jacks and their operators must follow all the standards that apply to PITs. Therefore, pallet jack operators are required to be trained and and receive a manual or electric pallet jack certification. This could include safety principles such as: 

  • Recognizing hazards while using the equipment
  • Controlling hazards while using equipment
  • Following all safety policies and procedures
  • Being aware of your surroundings while operating
  • How to communicate with the people you are working with
  • Developing safe working habits
  • The importance of knowing your worksite

Certain events may also prompt you to take training such as operator involvement in near miss or accident, poor evaluation, or it has been 3 years since your last training; so, you should not be surprised if you find the need to retake this training at a later date.

What Happens if I Don’t Have Training?

An uncertified employee behind the wheel jeopardizes employee safety in the workplace. On top of that, you will be issued a hefty fine if an OSHA inspection uncovers any untrained employee operating heavy machinery or equipment. This is why it is always important to receive and participate in training before you are allowed to operate a pallet jack.

Equipment Inspections & Maintenance

The operator or a designated person should inspect the pallet jack at the start of each day or shift. Using a checklist, which is normally provided in the operator's manual, will keep you from missing anything crucial. 

For inspections and maintenance, follow the manufacturer's instructions. Periodic inspections should be thorough and performed by a competent person on a monthly or yearly basis. These inspections, as well as any maintenance or repairs, should be documented.

Why Is This Important for Safety & Operations?

There are many benefits that come with routine inspections and maintenance. The biggest benefit is problem prevention. Finding low lubricant levels on a machine, for example, can prevent the equipment from breaking down. When this type of problem is discovered in advance, it is extremely cheap to fix. 

Not only does it save time and money, but it also positively impacts the safety of everyone in the workplace. Machine breakdowns and malfunctions are common causes of workplace injuries and fatalities. However, putting off the equipment check for too long can result in severe difficulties with the devices. Of course, a machine might have a variety of difficulties, and almost all of them will require regular inspections to identify and correct issues before they cause serious problems.

Pallet Truck Safety Rules

  • Never operate a pallet jack unless you have been trained to do so.
  • Never exceed the manufacturer’s maximum load-rated capacity; the capacity will be clearly marked on the pallet jack.
  • Center the forks evenly under the load to maintain good balance and ensure the stability of the load.
  • OSHA recommends that you push (don’t pull) manual pallet jacks.
  • Stop moving your load if someone is in your way—don’t assume the person sees you and can avoid you.
  • Use established traffic lanes and exercise caution to avoid collisions at corners.
  • Ask a spotter to assist you if your view is obstructed by the load.
  • Park the pallet jack in a level place with the forks lowered when you are finished using it.
  • Make sure the handle is up and the jack is out of a traffic area so no one will trip over it.
  • Don’t block exits or emergency equipment (like fire extinguishers)

Hazards Associated With Pallet Jack Trucks

According to OSHA statistics, there are certain inherent hazards connected with powered industrial truck operations, albeit under normal working conditions. Even a manual or electric pallet jack can be a dangerous piece of equipment, and the majority of injuries and deaths are caused by three simple dangers:

  • Struck-by incidents
  • Hit by a falling load
  • Maintenance-related hazards

The majority of pallet jack accidents resulted in at least one of the following:

  • Driving with a load that obstructs the vision of the operator
  • Going too fast in high pedestrian-use areas
  • Rear end swing during turns
  • Backing up

What Kind of Pallet Jack Training Do I Need?

Regardless of who you purchase your safety training from, there are some key aspects that should be considered as an employer before selecting a safety course for your employees. Some of the most important aspects are as follows:

The most important aspect to include in your search is a course that complies with OSHA standards. You should also ensure that the course you are taking has been updated to comply with the most recent changes to the safety standards.

The next crucial factor you need to consider is how affordable the course is. Many learning platforms offer discounts according to how many employees need the training. Make sure you communicate with the course creators so that you can purchase a course within your budget.

Not only should this training course be OSHA-compliant and affordable, but it also must be easy to use. The learning management system this learning course uses should not be complex or hard to navigate. You want the safety training process to be easy and simple.

Once you have found a learning platform and training that checks the first three boxes, there is one last issue you should consider. The course your employees will be taking should be engaging. Your employees should not have to sit and read through hours of monotone information. An engaging training course is not only easier to get through, but it also helps your employees retain the safety information they have learned.

Our Pallet Jack Lift Training

Luckily, our teams here at Hard Hat Training work hard every day to provide our customers with affordable, engaging, and OSHA-compliant safety training courses. We have over 200 courses in our course catalog. Among those 200 courses, we have a Pallet Jack Safety Training Course for those employees who will be operating a pallet jack in their workplace.