Stretch wrapping pallets

Guidance for employers on how to eliminate or reduce the workplace health and safety risks associated with employees stretch wrapping pallets.

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

Employers must provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.

Additionally, under the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 an employer must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate any risk of a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) associated with hazardous manual handling. Where the risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.

An example of hazardous manual handling may include work that requires a person to carry, move or hold a thing involving repetitive or sustained application of force, sustained awkward posture or repetitive movement.

Problem

Employees manually stretch wrapping pallets.

Bending to wrap a loaded pallet.

Figure 1 Bending to stretch wrap boxes with plastic film can be an MSD risk.

Risks

Manually stretch wrapping pallets requires employees to adopt awkward postures and movements and often involves use of high or sustained force.

This can cause MSDs. An MSD is an injury, illness, or disease that arises in whole or in part from hazardous manual handling and can include sprains and strains of muscles, back injuries and joint and bone injuries.

MSDs may affect the:

  • back
  • shoulders
  • knees
  • wrists
  • fingers
  • forearms.

MSDs can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time.

Controlling risks

The risk of an MSD associated with hazardous manual handling must be controlled so far as is reasonably practicable. The main duty is to eliminate the risk of MSD completely. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of MSD, employers must reduce the risk of MSD, so far as is reasonably practicable.

Consider the following controls:

  • Install an automatic pallet wrapper.
  • Use a semi-automatic stretch wrapping machine.
  • Use a vacuum-sealing or shrink-wrapping device.

If these controls are not reasonably practicable, consider using:

  • a raised automated scissor lift and turntable to improve posture and movements of employees during manual stretch wrapping
  • a different packing product such as tape-wrapping.
Automatic pallet wrapper.

Figure 2 Increasing automation can reduce the risk of MSD.