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Manual handling: stacking cartons on pallets


  1. Introduction
  2. What is manual handling?
  3. General problems and solutions
  4. Problems
  5. Solutions

1. Introduction

This pamphlet provides information on ways of reducing manual handling injuries when stacking cartons onto pallets. It is important for people who work in services to agriculture, warehouses, factories, shops and other workplaces where stacking pallets is part of the job.

2. What is manual handling?

When stacking cartons on pallets, manual handling means lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, carrying, moving or holding cartons that are placed on or removed from pallets. Pallet stacking may be associated with shelf stacking or moving trolleys. These tasks are covered by other brochures in this series.

3. General problems and solutions

Manual handling hazards are covered by the general duty provisions in the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Specific requirements for hazard identification, risk assessment and control are established by Regulation 3.4 of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996.

The Code of practice for Manual tasks provides practical guidance on the identification, assessment and control of risks associated with manual handling at work.

It is important to consult with employees performing the tasks as they are likely to be aware of the risk of manual handling injuries which may be associated with their jobs.

Manual handling tasks likely to be a risk to workers' safety and health should be identified and assessed in detail to determine the nature and the extent of the problems.

Risk control means finding solutions to the problems.

The following general problems and suggested solutions are examples of how manual handling injuries may be reduced.

4. Problems

Strain injuries may occur when:

  • the load is lifted from the floor, or from below mid-thigh height;
  • reaching above shoulder height when stacking cartons on pallets;
  • there is too much twisting and bending when placing cartons on a pallet;
  • excessive forward reaching is required when placing cartons on the far side of a pallet;
  • the cartons are too heavy when other risk factors, such as the number of cartons to be moved or the distance moved, are taken into account;
  • the cartons are awkward to grasp due to their size and shape.

5. Solutions

Here are some ideas that may be used to avoid strain injuries.

The examples provided may need to be used in combination with each other. Other risk control strategies, for example training, form part of any well thought out solution.

  • eliminate manual handling by using automatic carton stacking, vacuum suction, or hydraulic carton stacking;
  • raise the work height, eg. use a platform with automatic height adjustment;
  • use scissor platforms or tables;
  • use swivel or tilt platforms;
  • talk to your customers or suppliers about the size, shape and weight of cartons and their contents;
  • reduce the weight of the carton;
  • limit the height of the stack of cartons; and
  • where team lifting is necessary, ensure a safe procedure is agreed and followed.

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