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MSF: Unsafe Cargo Transfer Using Pallets

The Marine Safety Forum (MSF) reports in Safety Alert 22-06 that an MSF member reported two separate incidents during deck cargo transfer operations involving pallets.

What happened

Incident #1: Lifting strops were passed through the side of the pallet (See red arrows in diagram) allowing the tension to be placed on the deck boards. The load weighing approximately 150kg was centred on the pallet. The stress on the deck boards allowed them to separate from the pallet eventually failing and allowing the load to fall to the deck.

Incident #2: Loose items were placed on a pallet which was to be loaded onboard. During the lift, the pallet came
in contact with slings attached to a gangway stowed in the immediate area. The contact caused the pallet to shift
allowing a box of copy paper to fall off and fall to deck. Fortunately, there was no-one in the immediate vicinity when the box landed.

What went wrong?

The MSF notes that both incidents were different in nature but did have some similar attributes:

  • Task Planning, Risk Assessment and Toolbox Talk did not identify specific hazards associated with the operation;
  • There was complacency – a failure to recognize a hazardous situation developing.


  • Pallets have no safe working load (SWL) and have the potential for shifting if the load is not evenly distributed, or if external forces are present during the lifting operation;
  • All items being lifted, whether on pallets or otherwise, should be properly secured.

Members may wish to refer to:

High potential near miss – storage box dropped from forklift

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