Putting goods onto pallets makes it easier to transport and store them. Crops can be packed directly into pallets during harvest. Packing, unpacking and moving pallets has risks that can result in serious injury.
What is palletising, including field palletising on harvest aids?
Palletising involves the packing and stacking and goods or produce in crates, boxes and bags on to pallets for efficient shipping and handling. Pallets are usually placed on the ground and are loaded to capacity by hand or machine. Palletising can also occur in the field on harvest aids.
Once the pallets are loaded, they are usually lifted by a forklift onto a truck. Upon delivery, the pallets are removed from the truck with a forklift so unpacking can occur.
What are the risks of palletising, including field palletising on harvest aids?
Working with pallets exposes workers to repetitive tasks, overstretching and working in awkward postures, and handling heavy loads. This brings a range of risks:
- Manually loading pallets with heavy crates, boxes and bags can lead to sprains and strains of muscles, ligaments, intervertebral discs and other structures in the back, wrists, arms and shoulders.
- Working in awkward postures below knee height and above shoulder height can lead to sprain and strain injuries.
- The same one or two workers palletise for a whole shift, so the risk of injury is increased due to repetition and the length of time.
- Pallets are often stacked too high, causing workers to handle loads in stretched and awkward positions, increasing the risk of injury.
- Incorrect stacking can result in the goods falling on the worker, resulting in crush injuries.
- Steps, when provided for workers to stand on, can create the new risk of falling or tripping.
- Set-up of the work area is often cluttered, with new pallets for loading put where they fit instead of where it is safest for workers to access and use.
- When palletising on harvest aids, the workspace is often limited, causing awkward working postures and difficulty in moving things.
- Unexpected movement of the harvest aid and poor access can cause workers to slip or fall.
How do I manage the risks?
Workers and managers can work together to reduce the risks of palletising, including field palletising on harvest aids.
As a worker, you must:
- take care of your own health and safety as well as the health and safety of others
- cooperate with management to meet health and safety requirements and reduce risks.
As an employer or business owner, you have legal responsibilities as outlined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 for the health and safety of every worker and visitor.
The four-step risk management process below will help businesses to meet their responsibilities under work health and safety (WHS) laws.
You can also use the practical advice in the How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB).
Four steps to manage risk
The first step is to identify the hazards.
This can be done by inspecting your work processes and asking yourself:
- Is the equipment properly designed for the job?
- Is the equipment well maintained?
- Are my workers properly trained in the tasks I’m asking them to do?
Talking to your workers and asking:
- Are you aware of any potential hazards?
- How can we improve our safety and our processes?
- Do you know how to report a hazard?
Regularly reviewing your own records, and considering:
- What do your workers’ compensation claims, recorded incidents, sick leave and worker complaints tell you about past incidents and hazards?
- What can you do to prevent the same things happening again?
Identifying hazards should be an ongoing activity and something organised at least once a year, or whenever there is a change in equipment, facilities or work practices.
Next, assess the level of risk posed by each hazard. The risk level is determined by:
- how serious the potential harm is
- how likely it is to happen.
You can use this risk assessment template (DOCX, 0.02 MB) to guide you and record your assessments.
The law requires you to eliminate the risks if practical, or to minimise them as much as possible.
You must work through the hierarchy of controls to choose the control that most effectively eliminates or minimises the risks. This may involve a single control measure or combination of two or more different controls.
Find the hierarchy of controls in How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB) .
Additional ways to control the risks associated with palletising, including palletising on harvest aids, include:
- planning the location of the palletising area, considering space, access and product handling
- using automatic or robotic pallet stacking devices
- using adjustable pallet raisers, recessed into the floor if possible, for crates below knee height
- constructing a raised platform for crates above shoulder height to comfortably reach the top layers, or using a mechanical lifting system
- for harvest aids, allowing enough clear space for movement of workers around the machine and handling product
- negotiating with clients and transport companies the configuration of pallets to reduce the height, or use half/split pallets
- using job rotation to vary tasks and limit time the workers are doing this task
- keeping walkways clear and in good condition
- removing spilt produce from floors and cleaning up spills immediately.
You should regularly review your control measures. Don’t wait for something to go wrong. If necessary, change or adjust your approach. The aim is to maintain a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
Work health and safety laws require you to review controls:
- when you become aware a control measure is not working effectively
- before a change that might introduce a new risk
- when you find a new hazard or risk
- when your workers tell you that a review is needed
- after a health and safety representative requests a review.
Standards and compliance
Codes of practice
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Rural Plant code of practice 2004 (PDF, 0.63 MB)