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Pallet Jack Safety – Guide to Operating a Pallet Jack Safely

Filed under: Forklift Operators - Safety & Guides

If you don’t need a licence to operate a pallet jack, why should I bother then? Many employers ask untrained and unsupervised employees to operate pallet jacks which initially are not seen as a hazard, but still have the capability to cause damage to employees and bystanders.

Pallet jacks are used to make easy work out of what would usually be a multiple person job lifting a load from point A to B eliminating the strain and energy whilst also saving time. When operating a pallet jack (even for a short time span) you should ensure you are wearing the correct safety equipment including steel capped boots, gloves and safety eyewear (when transporting dangerous chemicals).

There are also a number of safety precautions you need to keep in mind when operating a pallet jack which include:

  • Never placing your feet under a machine
  • Never exceed the advised capacity
  • Using proper lifting techniques when loading/unloading and operating the pallet jack
  • Move the load slowly to ensure safety in case your surroundings change
  • You should always push the load (never pull the load)
  • When going down on an incline go in reverse
  • Be wary of pinch points to avoid injuries to your hands

Plan for safety

When operating a pallet jack it is your responsibility as the operator to ensure:

  • The pallet jack is in good condition before use
  • You use it in the correct manner to ensure your safety and the safety of the people around you

Making a quick inspection and planning your journey before jumping straight into using the pallet jack could save you a lot of hassle in the future.

Inspection Prior To Use

  • Inspect the pallet jack in general to ensure it is in good working condition
  • Familiarize yourself with the controls before using the pallet jack and ensure they are undamaged and responsive
  • Observe the wheels to ensure they are not worn out and no cracks are present. This will prevent poor handling and reduces the risk of the load becoming unstable mid journey.

Plan Your Journey

  • Check the route you are taking is clear and free from hazards and uneven surface before you begin to move your load
  • If you are carrying a large load that obstructs your view, ask a co-worker to guide you
  • Stick to correct sides of the warehouse

Pallet Maintenance

  • Store pallets in a dry place
  • Inspect the pallet for loose or rotting sections
  • Ensure no leakage from the previous or current load  has weakened the structure of the pallet

Although there is no licence test to operate these types of machinery, it is still essential for you to know how to operate the pallet jack safely, and to be aware of what precautions you need to take to ensure no damage or injurie occur in your workplace.

If you have any questions about pallet jack safety please feel free to leave a comment below, or if you want to learn more about safety click here

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I think it also worth saying it very important that when left it should be in a safe or even designated area in the case of my injury it was left directly behind rubber doors and invisible to people walking through since the doors were rubber they gave way at the top but not at the bottom were the forks were, this caused me to land on the steel forks the and loose wages for 3 months the company B&M retail fail to acknowledge responsibility for this which leaves me to firmly believe training and company responsibility are a big concern      

June 14, 2012 - 12:36 am

Hi Carol, Thanks for sharing, definitely having designated areas for storing Pallet Jacks is very important.  All pedestrian walk ways should be clearly marked as clear ways and all staff need to be aware of this so accidents like yours can be avoided.

Lindsay Whiffen - Adaptalift Hyster
June 19, 2012 - 10:33 am

thanks for a response to my comment Lindsay it is a fact that many companies while seeing that a pallet jack essential to their needs for moving such heavy items, will fail to respond positively to guide lines set out for the safety of all    

Carol Stanley
June 22, 2012 - 9:56 pm

This article piqued my interest in the latest products available on the market, and I found a great resource here: Hope this is a useful resource for you other readers.

Mark Le bois
June 19, 2014 - 9:59 pm

Hi, what is the maximum distance to pull a pump truck as in my work we are expected to yo pull it around for 9-10 miles a day useing it to pick on an also have a target to hit?   

July 17, 2014 - 10:28 pm

Hi Gerrard,

I don’t know if we can answer your specific question, it would really depend on your workplace conditions, what you are required to move, load weight, etc. It looks like you are in the UK, so it may also differ from country to country.

AAL Admin
August 13, 2014 - 3:48 pm

When loading a container is it safe to pull a stake of pallets into the container?
I ask this question because today my supervisor instructed another worker to pull, instead of push, a stake if eight pallets onto a container.
I had advised my supervisor that it is unsafe but still she insisted that it was how we are supposed to load trucks and it was the safest way.

November 20, 2014 - 4:09 pm

Hi Abigail,

You should always push a load, unless you are going up a ramp or incline, then it is acceptable to pull the load if safe to do so.

AAL Admin
November 20, 2014 - 4:22 pm

    hi just seeing if you can let me know the max weight for one person using a pallet jack thanks

May 22, 2015 - 2:10 am

Hi James,

Are you asking about the max weight a pallet jack can carry?

If so our Hyster pallet jacks are rated to carry 2500kg.   

In regards to the maximum weight an individual can move on a pallet jack, obviously will depend on the physical characteristics of the individual, terrain (is it flat ground or up a hill).

AAL Admin
May 22, 2015 - 10:59 am

    hi sorry I would like to know if there is a max weight limit for one person that can move a loaded pallet on your own with no help would an 650KG be ok or a 1050KG off the back of a truck with a tailgate With truck on flat ground or facing down hill or up hill I know the manual pallet jack max weight is 2500KG but there is no info on the safest weight for one person on the net an my work can’t tell me as they think just because the pallet jack can hold 2500KG that I should be able to move it with any weight up to 2.5t now my names not Holden or ford or I’m not a 4x4 im only one person could you help me with the o.h.s an what would be the best weight with out injury to my self or others! P.s they do have powered pallet jacks but I’m not allowed to use one at work. As they is only a few an that thay cost to much to get more. Thanks James

May 22, 2015 - 3:43 pm

Hi James,

Is the pallet jack a Hyster? If so the recommended weight is 750kg to allow sufficient braking of the jack in an emergency in a proper factory environment.

If it is any other brand of jack we aren’t able to comment. We also believe that the safe load weight varies from state to state with some as low as only 150kg.

If you read the following document:

Page 33 shows you a table and there is a blank in the load capacity.

We still believe a lot of it will be based around the users physical capabilities and the environment they are operating in.

AAL Admin
May 22, 2015 - 4:16 pm

    hi Amal admin. No it’s a BT manual pallet jack with plastic wheels not rubber

May 22, 2015 - 4:43 pm

is it safe to leave hand pallet jack ,under a pallet ,to avoid any type of accidents?                       

September 02, 2015 - 12:06 am

                        Does OSHA require proper training and certification to operate a pallet jack?

September 05, 2015 - 10:45 am

          hi,  I work in a busy factory, I’ve just read your article saying to push pallet trucks, I have never, ever been told to push, always pull? I pull weights of 500kg several times a day.  I’m in the UK any advice would be gratefully received.

November 01, 2015 - 7:37 pm

great post                  

gina safitri
April 18, 2016 - 3:17 pm

  The navy requires a license for electric walkie type pallet jacks.  I’m trying to find information about the stability triangle for the electric pallet jack for training, do you have information covering this information or can you suggest where I go get the information?  Thank you, John                      

John Wren
May 19, 2016 - 12:07 am

        health and safety regs state the safe working limit in the back of a truck is 500kg

June 23, 2016 - 9:39 am

There is a lot of good discussion on the blog here re looking for a specific answer or direction on weight limits for manual pallet jacks, I appreciate that there are a lot of determining factors leading to a determining an absolute.  What would be very helpful is information on the following
on the following assumptions, nice fit for purpose pallet, load balance and stacked neatly, smooth concrete floor at what point does the pallet and load weight impact the following range of forces.
Keep the starting forces to the range 17-21kg-f or less.
• Ensure the rolling force does not exceed 12kg-f if the jack is pushed more
than 3m.
• Emergency stopping forces of more than 36kg-f should not be needed to bring
the hand pallet jack to a stop within 1m.                   
I am assuming your designers/engineers would be able to readily provide this information.  I really would appreciate it that’s for sure.

mark Haley
August 11, 2016 - 2:45 pm

Are there any special requirements for using an electric pallet truck?

Is there any Australian Standards for this type of plant?                     

Denis Cauduro
September 14, 2016 - 1:32 pm

Informative article on safety and maintenance of the pallet lift. Good job Regards Dan

September 29, 2016 - 6:25 pm

Hi Denis,

It would be best to contact worksafe in regards to your enquiry.

AAL Admin
October 03, 2016 - 11:30 am

whats the most acceptable gradient for a ramp designed to be trafficed by a pallet jack?

Barry McLoed
October 06, 2016 - 9:41 pm

My question is do you need to wear steel toed shoes when using a pallet jack?

Derrick Blacquiere
November 03, 2016 - 9:12 pm

Hi Derrick, the requirement to wear steel capped boots whilst operating a pallet jack wlll be dependent on the company you for.

Whilst not compulsory to wear steel capped shoes, they will provide you with extra foot protection.

AAL Admin
November 08, 2016 - 2:38 pm

    Hi still waiting for a response re my posting on the 11th August.                   

Mark Haley
November 08, 2016 - 2:43 pm

Hi Mark Haley,
We have spoken to the technical advisors at Hyster and received the following response:

“This is not something that any designers/engineers can readily reply to as the question relates to a guidelines provided by Worksafe Victoria based on certain test condition.

I would suggest that Paul contact Worksafe Victoria who provided this guidelines (page 32 - ‘WORKSAFE VICTORIA / A GUIDE TO HANDLING LARGE, BULKY OR AWKWARD ITEMS’) for this enquiry.”

AAL Admin
November 09, 2016 - 2:23 pm

how far the feet should be from the cart for safety purposes

December 08, 2016 - 12:20 am

Is there a required amount of room need to be allowed to operate a manual pallet jack? ie: a smallish fridge? Thanks!

May 07, 2017 - 9:37 pm

Hi Sally,

There is no specific amount of operating room required. The area required will be dictated by the size of the pallet jacks turning circle.


May 08, 2017 - 4:12 pm

Is it an acceptable practise to push a pallet & pull a pallet behind at the sametime? (I am not encouraging this type of practise at all, I am in the middle of writing up a SWP, just need need some sort of clarification this practise is not advisable)  I have been informed to leave it up to ‘common sense’ however that does not sit well with me for many reasons.                     

June 22, 2017 - 1:15 pm

  If vision is blocked by tall load on forks is it acceptable to pull instead of push?                     

June 29, 2017 - 6:29 am

When moving loads or equipment, you must always have a full view of your path of travel.  If your view is obstructed and you cannot travel in reverse, you must use a guide or a “spotter” who is a competent person, and has a full view of your intended path of travel; is clear of your path of travel; and who will remain in full view of you (the operator) .           

Andrew Wharton
September 16, 2017 - 4:24 am

      If I was pulling a pump truck with loaded pallet and the load wheel caught a piece of debris on floor (nail etc) would this cause pump truck to stop suddenly?

Colin Porter
March 08, 2018 - 5:00 am

  Hi,  We need to shift 2.5 mtr height electric panel by using 2500 capacity HOPT. Please suggest is there any height restrictions to shift                    

Shaik Madeena
March 24, 2018 - 8:14 pm

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