Manufacturers commonly ship merchandise on pallets or in bundles and secure the loads with strapping or shrink and stretch film. Depending on the weight of the goods on the pallet, the shipper may use steel, polypropylene, polyester, nylon or composite fiberglass reinforced strapping. Steel strapping must be cut with metal cutting shears and the user must wear leather gloves and eye protection. A safety box knife or concealed blade safety cutter should never be used to cut steel strapping.
The OLFA® Self-Retracting Safety Knife (SK-4) and the OLFA® Concealed Blade Safety Knife (SK-10) can be used with all other types of strapping materials, as well as shrink or stretch film, string foil, packaging tape, coated films, foil paper, and woven or yarn cord. However, you must conduct safety checks prior to cutting. Here’s what to look for:
1. CHECK PALLET CONTENTS FOR SHIFTING
Some plastic strapping materials stretch after placement or when exposed to sunlight. Stretching allows palletized and bundled boxes and goods to shift in transit. If the shifted load isn’t rearranged first, the goods can fall as soon as the strapping or shrink or stretch film is cut. That can cause injuries, damage to goods and hazardous spills. So it’s important to check the load before cutting any strapping or film. Run down this checklist and confirm all is safe before cutting straps:
- Make sure the cartons or goods are stacked straight. If you detect a leaning condition, get help to square up the load, especially if the cartons or goods are heavy.
- If the pallet contains individual oddly shaped items, make sure they are stable before cutting the strapping or film. Rearrange if necessary.
- Cut the strapping with an OLFA® Self-Retracting Safety Knife (SK-4) or OLFA® Concealed Blade Safety Knife (SK-10).
2. CHECK THE TYPE OF STRAPPING
A quick inspection of strapping material will give you a head start in selecting the right cutter and technique. Here are some of the most common:
- Polypropylene strapping materials. These are commonly used to close individual cartons and to secure lightweight pallets and bundles of lightweight goods. Polypropylene strapping can be cut easily with an OLFA® Self-Retracting Safety Knife (SK-4) or OLFA® Concealed Blade Safety Knife (SK-10). Lift the strapping away from the product. Then place the cutter a few inches away from your hand and slice through the strapping, cutting at a 45° angle.
- Reinforced paper, string, corded and woven materials. Cut with a concealed blade safety cutter using the holding and cutting technique described above.
- Strong strapping materials. Heavier items are usually secured with a stronger material like polyester, woven webbing or composite fiberglass reinforced strapping materials. These strapping materials are harder to cut and dull a safety strap cutter blade quickly. If the palletized or bundled goods are heavy, assume the manufacturer has used one of these stronger strapping materials. If so, keep a supply of new blades handy and change the blade’s cutting surface at the first sign of increased effort.
3. CHECK THE CONDITION OF A CORRUGATED PALLET WRAPPER AND THE CORNER PROTECTORS
When shipping a pallet of small cartons, manufacturers may wrap large sheets of cardboard around the load to prevent the cartons from falling. They may also use heavy cardboard protectors at each corner to keep the load straight. A bulge in the cardboard wrapper or a bent corner protector is a sign that the load has shifted. Check the pallet contents and correct the problem before cutting the strapping with a safety strap cutter. That’ll prevent possible injury and damaged product.
Use an OLFA® Self-Retracting Safety Knife (SK-4) to cut the cardboard wrapping into smaller sections for recycling.
TIP FOR CUTTING SHRINK OR STRETCH FILM
Once you confirm the load or bundle is stable, use an OLFA® Concealed Blade Safety Knife (SK-10) to slice through the shrink or stretch film.
- Starting at the top of the load, poke through the shrink or stretch film with the pointed end of the gooseneck.
- Slice down to the middle of the pallet.
- Then cut horizontally to remove the top half of the shrink or stretch film or wrapping.
- Leave the bottom portion of the wrap in place until you’ve removed the goods above that level. Then repeat the process to cut through the remaining film or wrap.