Forklift Operation Is Serious Business: Part III – Vehicle Maintenance

Knowing how to maintain a forklift is, at least, as important as knowing how to operate it. (Courtesy: U.S. Air Force at

Knowing how to maintain a forklift is, at least, as important as knowing how to operate it.
(Courtesy: U.S. Air Force at

A person assigned to driving a forklift should not only be concerned with that aspect of their job. Maintaining the vehicle is, at least, as important as knowing how to operate it. In short, it is the forklift driver’s responsibility that the lift is properly cared for and safe to use.

For example, just about everyone involved in forklift work suggests that a warehouse should have a detailed maintenance schedule for their lifts. They also suggest that drivers should have safety checklists that direct them on what to inspect prior to using the lift. A check should include a visual inspection as well as an investigation of the fluid levels, hydraulics, wheels and tires, brakes, and potential mechanical problems the vehicle could experience. It is not only a rule, it is a commandment –- any forklift that is not safe to operate must be removed from service.

Items to inspect prior to operating a forklift.

· Check the fork pins and make extra sure that they are in place.
· Check all cowling and body parts.
· Check the fuel level, crankcase, oil level, and radiator water level.
· Check the engine air cleaner, fan belt, hydraulic fluid level, and battery water level.
· Check the hour meter and record the reading. This is important for maintenance scheduling.
· Check the operation of the hour meter, headlights, taillights, and warning lights with the engine running.
· Check the oil pressure gauge, water temperature reading, ammeter, and test the horn.
· Make certain that the clutch is working right and check the hydraulic controls as well as any other controls on the lift system.
· Check the wheels or tires for excessive wear.
· Look for any broken or loosened parts.
· Check the steering to be certain that the wheel turns properly both ways.

Another essential element of operating a forklift is paying attention. For example, one of the major practices of forklift operation is for the driver to watch for overhead obstructions when lifting a load. Other things to keep in mind when driving a forklift include:

· Never park in front of fire equipment, doors, exits or high traffic areas.
· Don’t pass another vehicle in narrow aisles.
· Don’t smoke in fueling areas.
· Travel backwards with caution if you cannot see past a load in front.
· Know the load capacity and limits of your vehicle. Know the elevator load limits and how to enter and exit elevators.
· Never attempt to lift a load that is beyond the capability of the forklift.
· Do maintenance or repair work that you are actually authorized to do and leave the other maintenance problems to skilled personnel.
· Whenever you leave the forklift, be certain to lower the forks, put the controls in neutral, set the brakes, block the wheels if on an incline, shut the power off, and remove the ignition key or connector plug.

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