B.C. warehouse cuts risk of pallet fires

At one B.C. warehouse, the risk of fires in wood pallets goes down while employees’ morale goes up, as they see their well-being put above financial costs. 

Photo of stacks of wood pallets

Photo credit: sallaha on Flickr

The Fiery Potential of Idle Pallets is an article I received via Twitter from Chubb Insurance.

“Most manufacturing plants and warehouses stack unused pallets, but storing these lumbering hunks of wood improperly is an invitation to disaster,” it reads.

“Hotworks or sparks created by fork trucks, conveyors and other handling systems can set a pallet’s dry and splintered wood into a fiery catastrophe.”

I got in touch with Howard Lewis, OHS Coordinator at Vanderpol’s Eggs, to ask how they deal with storage of wood pallets. He said they can only use pallets once, and they can’t be stored outside, due to food-safety requirements. They store 200 and 300 new pallets in their warehouse each week to meet egg production requirements, but can’t put them in the racking systems due to fire hazard.

“Our sprinkler system configuration wouldn’t be able to handle a pallets fire in the racks; we do not have in-rack sprinkler systems,” Howard said. “So our pallets must be stored in our bulk storage areas. Due to our high volume of wood pallets, warehouse personnel were storing them as high as the roof would permit, in order to save on floor space. This created not only a fire hazard, but a crushing hazard as well, if the pallets were to fall.”

Ordering less more often

Howard said he discussed it with the facilities manager who advised him of a fire code that states 16 feet as the maximum allowable height for empty pallets stacked indoors. They restacked the pallets as required, with stacks placed in a staircase position, descending from the highest stack.

“This addressed the fire and crushing hazards, but increased the floor space being used and was causing space constraints for product. Through our joint occupational health and safety committee we decided that ordering less pallets more often from our supplier would allow us to store the wood pallets safely without interfering with production,” Howard said.

“By ordering less pallets more often, our shipping costs increased, our floor space was reduced, and our man-hours for handling pallets increased as well. However, the risk of serious property damage, more importantly, serious injury was significantly reduced. Not to mention the productivity rate gained by having employees who feel that their well-being is put above financial costs in the priorities of their employer.”

It’s good to see a solution that puts people first. Thanks to Howard for sharing the story.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *