A forklift driver needs to know how to operate a lift in extreme weather. (Courtesy: Coalboater at flickr.com)

Forklifts In Extreme Weather

The winter of 2019 wasn’t easy for many segments of the United States. We’ve endured a polar vortex, which has led to extreme cold temperatures well below zero. It seems that much of the nation has withstood heavy snowstorms and extreme weather, especially in the Midwest and Northeast just about every weekend through January.

If you own or manage a company that needs to use forklifts in this extreme weather, take heart. European forklift manufacturers are noting that forklift construction there has been done with extreme weather in mind.

Forklift Action has noted that there have been heavy snowfalls and extreme weather in Europe as well. And companies who have needed to use forklifts in that environment have found it to be a challenge.

A spokesman for Jungheinrich admitted that forklifts are not designed to operate in snow masses of the type seen in Germany recently.

He has noted, “That’s an extraordinary weather phenomenon, even for Bavaria.” He pointed out that Jungheinrich trucks are designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C to +40°C.

He added that these lifts use thin hydraulic oil, heated displays, and KTL-primed frames. The company also suggests windscreen heating, weatherproof cabins, electric heating, and working lights on the overhead guard.

A forklift driver needs to know how to operate a lift in extreme weather. (Courtesy: Coalboater at flickr.com)

A forklift operator must be able to handle his lift in extreme weather.
(Courtesy: Coalboater at flickr.com)

A spokesman for Linde cautioned that electric forklifts that rely on lead-acid batteries are more vulnerable in extreme cold temperatures because these batteries have a lower state of charge and that the electrolyte in the batteries can freeze. He suggested the use of electric forklifts with lithium-ion batteries. They can withstand extreme cold temperatures as low as -35°C He also warned that charging times are longer for lithium-ion batteries that operate in temperatures below -10°C.

The senior product strategy manager of Yale added that freezing temperatures could adversely affect the moving parts of a forklift. He noted that Yale has developed hydraulic lubrications that survives temperatures as low as -30°C.

Executives with forklift manufacturers in Europe recommend using cabin heating to ensure comfort for the driver, LED lights in the front and rear and many other different positions on the truck to light up work areas, and the use of winter tires with or without spikes.

Some recommend that drivers guide their lifts with a load that is as low to the ground as possible.

Safety Tips For Driving A Lift In Winter Conditions

A forklift can be prepared to withstand extreme weather, but, still, it is the forklift operator who ultimately must drive the lift in extreme conditions safely.

An expert in forklift operations, who resides in Australia, noted that his country also suffers through extremely cold conditions and he has suggestions on how a driver can overcome.

We all know what winter hazards a forklift operator who uses his lift outdoors will encounter. They include:

• Snow and/or ice
• Wet and/or slippery surfaces
• Cold and/or strong winds
• Limited visibility

First, it is essential that the driver withstand these conditions. What he wears to combat the cold temperatures, extreme weather, and other elements is important. They should include:

• Water and wind proof jackets and pants
• Polar fleece jumper
• Insulated gloves and wool hat.
• Thermal wear including under garments

Moreover, these garments should include high visibility reflective tapes so that the driver can be seen in limited visibility.

Things that the operator should do to ensure safe use of the lift include:

• Allowing the forklift to warm up before operating
• Ensure that the lift is equipped with the proper amount of anti-freeze
• Make certain that the lift is prepared for operating conditions

When the forklift operator prepares the lift, he should:

• Ensure that all the safety lights are working and, if necessary, replace ineffective bulbs.
• Use chains to ensure the best grip on snow and ice.
• Close call covers to keep snow, ice and water from entering areas of the lift where they are electronic components to ensure against electrocution.

Finally, it is suggested that lift operators drive to the conditions. That means:

• Slowing down when driving on snow or ice.
• Ensuring that the lift is visible at all times.
• Ensuring that drivers are knowledgeable of company plans to work in adverse conditions and knows when it is too dangerous to operate the lift.

(Sources: Forklift Action and aalhysterforklifts.com)

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