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MHE is designed to do heavy lifting; it can help warehouse personnel move heavy loads but can also be very dangerous. Forklifts can easily hurt or kill workers, while a pallet jack may enable workers to move pallets far heavier than they realize, compromising the safety of others. While utilizing MHE, warehouse staff should be properly trained and use proper safety equipment.

MHE typically involved in warehousing operations might include:

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Forklifts – A mechanized power loader capable of lifting full pallets and heavy equipment. Forklifts come in a variety of sizes to meet a variety of load needs, but generally come with an enclosed cab and a four wheel base. All forklifts will have a hydraulic or chain powered “mast” capable of extending and lifting cargo vertically. The height and lift capacity of the mast depends on the rating of the forklift, and more information can be found from the manual or manufacture website.

Depending on the make, forklifts can be powered by either battery, compressed gas, or diesel/gasoline. Forklifts are generally designed for either use inside a warehouse with even surfaces, or for all terrain outdoor use.

Before obtaining a forklift, humanitarian agencies should consider:

  • The availability of skilled or licensed operators.
  • The conditions in which the forklift will operate (indoor or outdoor).
  • The available energy source required to operate the forklift.
  • The space required to utilize in or around a warehouse.

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Pallet Jacks – Sturdy, low centre push cart with forks capable of lifting a pallet a few centimetres off the ground. Pallet jacks are typically only powered by hand, using a hydraulic piston to gently lift and lower pallets. Pallet jacks generally require flat surfaces and only work indoors, but can assist with moving large loads quickly and with minimal effort.

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Dollies – Occasionally referred to as hand trucks, dollies allow for moving of stacked cargo without the aid of a pallet. Dollies can be useful for moving relatively small loads, such as a stack of cartons, or a single large item, such as a large roll. Many dollies are designed with heavy duty inflatable ties to assist with operating outdoors.

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Push Carts and Others – There are a variety of other simple tools to facilitate the movement of cargo around a warehouse or between mode of transits. A very common tool is a standard push cart, however there are many variations on sizes and components, and users should select the support tools most useful to them.

Basic Support Items – Part of a properly functioning warehouse is the ability perform simple maintenance, conduct routine product inspection and address small issues without having to source external support. Basic tools and support items that should be available in any warehouse include:


Ideally, pallets should also be well wrapped to prevent slumping or falling during movement and long-term storage. Pallet wrapping is cheap and widely used, and can be done by hand without the need for special equipment. Some products and warehouses also choose to utilized binding – synthetic or organic ropes or straps - that keep palletized cargo together. Properly wrapped or bound pallets will dramatically increase the longevity of the pallet.

Pallet with plastic wrappingPlastic Wrapping

Pallet with plastic bindingPlastic Binding

Other general guidance points for utilizing pallet racking systems: