Archive for category pallet jack

Levelling Dock Plate Injuries

Securing trucks at the dock can cause injuries to muscles, tendons, and joints while lifting and moving the mechanical dock plate into position. Switching to a push button controlled powered dock leveler removes the need to pull or manipulate heavy dock components. Powered dock levelers can also smooth out forklift travel between dock and trailer, reducing vibrations to the driver’s body. This type of system can also help prevent a fall from the dock while docking or closing a trailer.

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Are electric pallet jacks worth the investment?

By Jena Williams

Electric pallet jack

Electric pallet jack

Recently we were contacted by Bill Smith, Safety and Compliance Manager at Brown Line. They were considering replacing some of their manual pallet jacks with the electric equivalent because they wanted to prevent injuries to their drivers. Bill asked to partner with us because he wanted hard numbers to determine if the safety tradeoff was worth the financial investment.

Keep Trucking Safe staff, including Stephen Bao, one of the ergonomists on our team, met Bill and his team at their loading dock in Mount Vernon to collect data on forces involved in using pallet jacks that were carrying loads ranging from 1,500-2,500 lbs. Stephen used a biomechanical modeling method to calculate load forces on different body parts of the worker during various tasks.

The tasks studied included pumping the pallet jack, pushing or pulling the jack to get it moving, and turning the jack both in the grooved trailer and in the warehouse. Stephen also measured the forces involved in pulling/pushing the pallet jack with a 1,500 lb. load over the dock plate (threshold heights of 2.5 and 5 inches).

As you might assume, these tasks were quite effortless when performed using an electric pallet jack.

Of the tasks tested, the most stressful on the body was pulling the manual pallet jack out of the trailer and up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate. This task was rated at so high a risk to the wrist, elbow, shoulder and ankles by the biomechanical analysis software that likely no one in the general population can perform the task without some injury to these body parts. There was also significant pressure placed on the low back.1

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate.

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate requires 175 lbs. of force.

The next most difficult task was turning a loaded pallet jack inside a trailer with a grooved floor. This task produced a very high risk of injury to the knee, ankle and wrist with a 2,000 lb. load. Lighter loads significantly reduced the injury risk.

If the decision to use electric or manual pallet jacks were just one of injury risk, electric pallet jacks would definitely be the way to go, but as we know there is more to the story.


There is no force on the body to maneuver a fully-loaded electric pallet jack.

Electric pallet jacks cost about $4,000-$5,000 each and require weekly maintenance and battery replacement ($200-$300) after a few hundred hours. A fully charged battery lasts about 8 hours so there is also the concern that a driver could run out of power.

Maneuvering a fully loaded manual pallet jack.

Pumping the handle of a fully-loaded manual pallet jack requires the application of over 70 lbs. of force. This is a high risk task for the hands and wrists of most people.

Manual pallet jacks cost about $400 each and require quarterly maintenance. Battery replacement isn’t required; however shoulder, wrist or ankle or driver replacement can be significant.

What do I mean by significant?

Consider that each year, 1 out of 13 truck drivers has a work-related injury that results in a lost work time workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, the most common type of injury is a strain, sprain or overexertion, which can result from the types of forces we identified. The median cost of these types of injuries to truck drivers is about $13,000.2 It’s much cheaper to get the electric pallet jack and replace a battery than a driver. In addition, electric pallet jacks can complete a loading job much faster than a manual one so productivity increases, too.

The decisions employers and safety directors make involving investing in safer tools and equipment can feel daunting. It helps to have the numbers in front of you and to draw on the experience of others. Bill mentioned that Brown Line was planning to target the routes with the most hills or heaviest pallet deliveries for the electric pallet jacks and if those worked out they might consider the using them with the rest of the fleet.

We all want to keep our valued workers safe and working. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with electric pallet jacks in the comments.



  1. Results of biomechanical analysis study at Brown Line, Mount Vernon, Washington, Stephen Bao, PhD, CPE, based on measurements taken on May 27, 2014.
  2. Rauser, Smith and Williams 2014. Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, 2006-2012. SHARP Program, report #90-148-2014. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, Washington.


Who knew?!? We have pallet recycling in Washington!!

By Jena Williams

Continuing to use old, damaged pallets is a danger to workers, product and your reputation. Don’t do it! Train workers to mark damaged pallets out-of-service and keep plenty of quality pallets available.

In an article called Pallet Safety , author William Nowell notes that, “Pallet inspection programs are critical…[to] limit or prevent the unnecessary costs associated with human safety, physical damage and reputation of the company.” Weak, cracked or unstable pallets need to be removed from the work area, but how do you dispose of them?

I would love to hear from you (both management and workers) on your experiences with good and bad pallets. How have they impacted your work? Is there a pallet graveyard at your company or how have you found new homes for them?

The North American Pallet Recycling Network connects businesses that need to dispose of pallets with local recyclers. I’m optimistic that the recyclers are not putting damaged pallets back into circulation, but rather are repairing or using them for some other purpose.

Has anyone tried listing in the “Free” section of or If not usable for pallets, or art or whatever, can they still be used to burn as wood heat?

I know we Washingtonian’s are big into recycling, so how ‘bout recycling some ideas below about how your company handles the issue of damaged pallets.


North American Pallet Recycling Network:

Rainier Pallet and Crating:

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