Ice, Snow Present Dangers to Forklift Operators

lights and alarmsLast year, much of the country had one of the worst winters on record with multiple heavy snowstorms and lower than normal temperatures throughout many parts of the US.

This year, some forecasters are predicting similar severe weather conditions. And the snowy, wintry weather has arrived even earlier, with polar cold fronts plunging many Northern and Midwest into single digit temperatures even before Thanksgiving.

Preparing Your Forklifts for Winter

Operating any vehicle in winter conditions — whether it is a car, truck or forklift — requires a different skill set than in warmer, drier conditions. Like any vehicle, forklifts are susceptible to slipping and sliding on ice and snow. And because they typically weigh several tons, they can easily slide down inclines or into embankments if not operated with extreme caution.

The first thing to remember is to never operate a forklift designed for indoor work outdoors, especially not in snowy or icy conditions. Indoor forklifts typically don’t have the traction ability to maintain stability outdoors.

Keep the Outside from Getting Inside

Next, remember that during the winter months, it’s easy to track the outdoors inside. Make sure your docks, loading areas and floors are kept clear of ice, snow and dirt brought in from the outside on the tires of your forklifts, power jacks and other vehicles. Make it a priority to keep indoor work areas clear and clean at all times to ensure safety.

If you haven’t recently conducted a maintenance check on your forklift fleet, now would be a good time — before the heaviest winter weather hits. The extreme heat and sun of summer temperatures can affect your forklifts performance. Check that the oil is being changed every 150 to 200 run hours, that all fittings are properly lubricated, and that any filters are changed regularly.

One thing that can have a major impact on your forklift’s performance is humidity. Moisture buildup can affect the battery, hydraulics, electrical system and engine.

Winterizing Your Vehicle Early in the Season

To winterize your forklift, check lubricants and oil levels, make sure the battery is holding a charge properly, and double-check your forklift’s major operating systems — the mast, the wheels and tires, the tines — to make sure they are all in good working order.

Between winter and summer, it’s important to adjust the water to coolant ratio in the radiator to prevent leaks or to keep the engine block or heads from cracking. Plus, have a qualified technician check your vehicle’s battery strength before freezing temperatures are here for good.

Operator Training Essential for Safety

Training your operators to safely drive forklifts in wintry conditions is another job that should be taken care of before winter begins in earnest. Emphasize the tipping and sliding dangers that ice and snow create. Require your drivers to conduct daily safety inspections of their vehicles before beginning their shift. And pay careful attention to the indoor conditions to make sure pathways are clear of ice, snow, dirt and debris tracked in from the outside.

Thinking about winter forklift operation before the worst parts of winter hit can improve safety, increase productivity, and reduce costs.


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