Safe stacking initiative

Stack Collapsesby Chris Alderson

Bulk stacking practices in Fonterra's global warehouse operations have been the subject of a specific project, that has lead to a dramatic reduction in the number of falling pallets.

It has been common practice in the dairy industry to stack pallets of milk powder without supporting racking. The powder is packed into a 25 kg bag and then up to 80 bags placed on a 2.2 metre wide pallet. This aids packing operations as the powder can then be loaded directly into a shipping container for export.

Stacking the powder over the years has not been without issue and there were a worrying number of incidents being reported where powder had fallen over in the warehouse resulting in loss of product and damage to building walls. The risk associated with falling powder pallets – which can weigh up to two tonnes – is obvious. Although Fonterra forklift operators have strong safety cages for protection it was still a substantial hazard.

In response to this risk Fonterra formed a team who devised a strong set of procedures and controls that when applied almost eliminates the risk associated with product falling in a bulk stacking environment. Time was spent talking with experienced forklift operators, whose opinions helped define what product was safe to stack, how high it could be stacked and the safe creation of rows of stacked powder. A height limit of five pallets was mandated and the formation of ëanchor stacks', at a lower height at the back of the row, created a much more stable stacking formation.

The rules around the minimum requirements, which included supervisor checking and a link to ongoing audits were agreed and published globally earlier this year.

The application of the safe stacking rules has resulted in an approximate 70 per cent reduction in the number of stack collapses.Stacking Patterns
One of the challenges for Fonterra is in training forklift operators and warehouse supervisors in the new stacking rules.

To assist with this a set of animated training videos were created which transmit the main messages in a highly visual way. Applying this training technique through the upcoming season will further reduce the number of high risk incidents.

Four training animations were created with the assistance of Revisia who specialise in industrial training and animation solutions.

The four training modules cover the following:

  • how to assess product for stacking
  • how to create row
  • how to de-stack for export
  • warehouse supervisors' duties

The animations can be played on standard windows PC s or as iphone/ipad applications.

Fonterra in New Zealand already has an in-house training programme called Forklift Code of Practice – or FCOP. The safe stacking videos will be used to supplement the FCOP training in New Zealand but are also available to international Fonterra operators – given that subtitles can be easily created to cover non English speaking audiences.

Chris Anderson is general manager of safety frameworks at Fonterra.