Preparing a Forklift and Driver for Winter Operation

Just like you take precautions to prepare your car for a severe weather, you should also be prepping your fleet of forklifts. (Derek Pogue at flickr.com)

Just like you take precautions to prepare your car for severe weather, you should also be prepping your fleet of forklifts.
(Derek Pogue at flickr.com)

Old man winter is about to make his appearance. That means cold temperatures, snow and ice. And just as you take precautions to prepare your car for extreme weather, you should also be prepping your fleet of forklifts. If not careful, a weather related accident or breakdown can occur and there are plenty of reasons to want to avoid that from downtime for the lift to workmen’s compensation issues involving an injured employee.

Consider this as a checklist detailing what needs to be done to assure that forklift use is not affected by what the old man has planned for this year.

First, there are maintenance issues that need to be considered.

· Inspect safety equipment associated with your forklifts to assure that they are functioning properly.
· Check the welds to make certain they are not broken.
· Walk around and look on the area of the floor the forklift has occupied for any visible leaks.
· Make sure gauges are functioning properly.
· Check out chains and anchors for possible rust or cracking.
· Top off all fluids like coolants, antifreeze, fuel additives etc. that will protect your machines from affects of the cold.
· Make sure you keep a proper amount of these fluids on hand to use when necessary
· Do all necessary maintenance to assure that the battery; hydraulics, and electrical system are well protected from extreme cold.
· Park forklifts in dry areas. If necessary, use a battery warmer or keep it plugged in to avoid a flat battery.
· If your fleet is diesel powered, make sure you use diesel that is suitable for freezing temperatures.
· Tune up forklift engines and test them for carbon monoxide emissions. Extensive carbon monoxide release can cause drivers to suffer headaches, nausea, and dizziness.
· If you use LPG powered forklifts, have a service professional properly adjust the air and fuel mixture to control CO emissions from the exhaust.

The driver needs to be prepared too.

· Encourage your drivers to wear warm clothing like heavy waterproof jackets, gloves, hat, earmuffs, etc.
· Offer a refresher training class to your drivers on how to drive safely in wet, cold, icy or snowy conditions.
· Train and encourage your drivers to perform daily inspections of their forklifts and report their findings to the forklift fleet manager.
· Check your drivers for cold stress that can lead to life-threatening conditions including hypothermia and frostbite. Teach drivers how to recognize symptoms of cold stress and know how to treat it.

Don’t neglect the forklift.

· Purchase high quality covers to protect the forklifts from wind and rain.
· Equip your forklifts with the proper tires. If pneumatic tires don’t work sufficiently in winter conditions in your region of the country, then use tire chains and studs.
· Have salt or other grit material on hand to sprinkle over icy surfaces so forklifts don’t slip and slide.
· Regularly clean forklifts that operate in muddy or dirty conditions to prevent equipment and parts from being blocked or clogged.

Consider adding appropriate accessories or attachments to forklifts to help them perform better in winter conditions.

· Add lighting to forklifts so that drivers can work at times of the day when it is dark.
· Have snow plow and scoop attachments as well as salt spreaders and sanders on hand so that forklifts can be used to remove snow from the yard and parking lots.
· If the forklifts you use do not have a cab, then consider adding a complete cab or screen, wipers, covers, and heater.

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