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Working with pallets? Beware these common safety issues.

Many workers' everyday routine involves handling pallets. These simple wooden contraptions may not look dangerous, but they can lead to serious workplace injuries, like sprained ankles, broken toes, cuts and puncture wounds. 

There are approximately 2 billion pallets in circulation in the United States alone. That's nearly 2 billion opportunities for injury -- so it's important to know how to work safely when handling wooden pallets.

Neglecting safety equipment

When handling pallets, it is crucial to use adequate safety equipment like gloves, safety shoes and ear protection. Gloves protect workers' hands from puncture wounds, cuts and splinters from the pallets' rough wood. If a pallet should fall onto someone's foot, safety shoes may prevent broken bones. Pallets can be very loud when dropped or transported, so earplugs or muffs can be used to protect workers' hearing.

Stacking pallets too high

The flat, square design of pallets makes them easy to stack into tall piles that are convenient for storage. However, if these piles grow too high they could topple over and hurt someone. Generally, pallets should be stacked in piles no higher than 4 feet.

Using damaged pallets

Damaged pallets can easily cause an accident. Standing on one could prompt someone to fall and hurt themselves. Stacking damaged pallets could make the entire pile tip over. When handling damaged pallets, separate them from the other pallets in the work space. Then, dispose them safely or recycle them.

Working in a messy space

Pallets should only be handled in a clean work area. If a work site is messy, it could contribute to slip and falls or other types of on-site injuries. Employers have a responsibility to keep their workplaces sanitary and clear of any debris that could contribute to accidents. 

What to do if a pallet has caused an injury

If you or a coworker suffers a pallet injury, the first step should be to seek medical care. Keep in mind that not all injuries are immediately apparent; some injuries take weeks, months or even years to appear.

After receiving treatment, report your injury to your employer and file a claim with the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation if necessary. You may also wish to contact an attorney who handles workers' compensation claims. The process of filing a workers' comp claim can be long and difficult, and it can be helpful to have an advocate on your side from the beginning.

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