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We emphasize the importance of forklift safety a lot here on the forkliftaccessories.com blog. We don’t want to preach, but it’s a subject that’s as important to us as our customer service policy is. We are all part of the material handling family, after all, and we don’t like it when one of our own is injured in a forklift accident. While we’ve covered subjects like forklift safety accessories, forklift training and regular used forklift inspections and maintenance, there’s one used forklift “part” we’ve overlooked: the used forklift data plate.
A spate of recent OSHA citations highlights the importance of up-to-date and accurate forklift data plates. According to industry sources, inaccurate data plates and non-operator error were the ultimate cause of the accidents, all of which involved operating lift trucks beyond their actual capacities, as opposed to their capacities as stated on their data plates. How can this happen?
A used forklift will have the same carrying capacity as it had when it was new, but only if it has not been modified in any way or is not being used with a forklift attachment that alters its capacity or center of balance. While most new lift trucks are bought with specific purposes in mind, many used forklifts are purchased to undertake a variety of tasks. Because of this, used forklifts are more often involved in accidents that can be traced to their lifting capacities than new forklifts. Updating the data plate on a used or reconditioned forklift can go a long way towards preventing such accidents.
A new forklift comes with a data plate attached, but the data plate only covers the capacity of the lift truck when it is used for the purpose it was designed. In most cases, that means with a pallet load of goods placed at the back of the forks. Another blog, Determining Your Forklift Carrying Capacity, goes into this in some detail and mentions that operator “negligence is the primary cause of forklift accidents.” While this is still statistically true, the new information provided by OSHA highlights the fact that sometimes owner negligence is the real culprit.
Nothing on the data plate above indicates the capacity of the lift truck if it has been modified. Unless a forklift operator knows the capacity of the lift truck when it is being used with a forklift attachment that alters its center of balance, an accident not only may happen, at some time an accident probably will happen.
It’s not just forklift attachments that alter a lift truck’s carrying capacity, either. For example, the previous owner of your used electric forklift may have installed a cheaper, lighter battery and not gone to the trouble of having a new data plate fixed to the forklift. A modification like that can be enough to cause the forklift to tip forward when it is lifting a load at or near its rated maximum capacity.
If you have an older used forklift, it may not be possible to obtain a valid OEM replacement data plate from the forklift manufacturer. If this is the case, OSHA recommends contacting a “Qualified Registered Professional Engineer” who will be able to issue you with valid approval. After you have received the approval, you must change the data plates on the lift truck. When that’s done, you and your forklift operators will always know at a glance what your used forklift is capable of handling and won’t become another OSHA accident statistic.