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Are you checking your forklifts enough?

Are you checking your forklifts enough?When you think about forklift safety, it’s the operational aspects that typically command attention: driving at a safe speed, minding maximum load capacities, awareness of nearly foot traffic, etc. However, forklift maintenance – and how often your company conducts regular inspections – is one area where so much non-compliance occurs.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) requires regular inspections of all powered industrial trucks. But many warehouse managers, foremen and others involved with workplace safety just seem to just forget and are too busy to keep on top of the checking and documenting these checks. The HSE also has some much information and documentation to support you with these checks.

Regular training is also a requirement for using forklifts. These can consist of a few days, refresher training, intense training or weekly sessions – you can decide how you want to do your training – just as long as you are trained that is the main thing.

Forklift maintenance is one of the most critical – and often overlooked – aspects of total forklift safety. In fact, OSHA requires vigilant daily inspections of all forklifts, including warehouse lifts, rough terrain forklifts, narrow aisle lifts, pallet jacks, and more.

Three key OSHA guidelines lay out the framework for a productive, positively safe forklift maintenance schedule:

  • employees and employers must never knowingly drive a forklift that is known to be unsafe…in other words, a forklift that hasn’t undergone a recent inspection.
  • all powered industrial trucks should be removed from active use, and repairs are required to be undertaken by trained personnel. Any forklift maintenance should not be attempted by untrained employees.
  • forklifts should be maintained to promote a clean condition, with no noticeable grease, dust, oil and other substances.

Individually, each guideline provides a crucial piece of the overall forklift maintenance puzzle. Collectively, they form the backbone of any sensible, well-planned, sustainable forklift maintenance program.

These guidelines help create a safer working environment for everyone involved with forklift use, including those you wouldn’t think would be impacted by unsafe forklifts – namely, pedestrians passing through an active work area. Some are common sense safety measures, while others are more complex in terms of detail and execution. Taken together, they’re the foundation for regular, reliable inspections for your entire powered industrial truck fleet.

Forklifts should be inspected daily – at a bare minimum, at least 3-4 times per week (if the forklift isn’t used every day). In practical terms, how does this translate into a workable forklift maintenance plan for your enterprise?

  1. Monitor all critical forklift operating systems, including the brakes, steering controls, backup alarms, safety mechanisms, tilt control, and more. General rule of thumb: if it moves or impacts safety in any way, it requires constant attention. Safety on the job often begins with thorough inspections BEFORE the job even starts.
  2. Ensure your maintenance staff always conduct a visual pre-check (mechanical inspections, harnesses, etc.) and operational pre-check (brakes, safety signals, cockpit controls, etc.) each day.
  3. Encourage everyone to get involved with forklift maintenance. Ask your drivers to report any operational issues or defects. Make sure your maintenance staff and forklift operators are in regular communication.
  4.  Offer incentives for regular maintenance activities. Think gift cards for no skipped maintenance days, or extra holiday time for fixing a problem that may have caused a major accident or injury. A thorough, well-designed maintenance plan backed by a worthwhile incentive plan automatically draws in more people than you’d think. Yes, it’s true – maintenance can be (quite literally) rewarding.
  5. Post your general maintenance requirements where everyone can see them. This is helpful for non-maintenance personnel. For example, forklift operators get a general idea of what checks entail comprehensive maintenance procedures. This may help them identify small issues before they become serious ones.

With the guidelines and your own requirements – above and beyond minimum maintenance activities – you’ll soon discover that regular maintenance is easier and more achievable than you think. Regular forklift is the smart, sensible, SAFE thing to do for your entire enterprise. Don’t wait for the HSE to audit and get serious with your forklift maintenance plan. 

If you need any support with your fork lifts whether it is training or putting together the documented checks please contact Joanne Hunt on joanne@chestnutassociates.co.uk