OSEA Safety Blog

Proper Forklift Maintenance

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 Gregory Santo

First, consider workplace safety as a cornerstone of maintenance. Safety tasks are often closely related to best maintenance practices. Secondly, a forklift is considered by OSHA to be a powered industrial truck and can include other workplace vehicles that need to be maintained and is defined as a mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack or tier materials.

General Forklift Safety: Daily Checklists

Forklifts should be inspected before each shift and operators can perform these simple, daily checks. We’re aware that these checks may seem silly to operators, but in reality, the checks take about 3 minutes (if that) to perform and result in a safer operating environment and lower maintenance costs.

Pre-shift Inspections

  1. Check fluid levels (i.e., fuel, water, hydraulic)Low fluid levels can cause machine malfunctions, like forks not raising properly or brakes not working, which can cause some pretty nasty accidents.
  2. Look for visible damage. See something? Tell your managerReporting visible damage can end up saving you from larger repairs in the future.
  3. Check tire condition and pressure, if applicableDamaged tires with low pressure will cause your forklift to not function as safely or as effectively as it could.
  4. Forks must be in good conditionOperating poorly maintained forks can cause serious damage to the machine and can cause loads to slip or worse, injuries to employees.
  5. Inspection stickers, decals and equipment breastplate must be in the right place and legibleThis is an OSHA requirement and ensures you can quickly identify a forklift.
  6. Ensure the operator’s compartment is clean and free of debrisA dirty compartment can cause accidents (i.e. slipping on an old water bottle).
  7. Safety devices (i.e., seat belt, finger guards) must be workingPeople first. Safety equipment is there for a reason, keep it in good condition!

Additional daily checks are required depending on the type of forklift(s). Perform these tests while the truck is off.

Type 1 – Electric Forklifts (batteries power electric forklifts)

  1. Make sure no cables are frayed
  2. Check the battery restraints
  3. Electrolytes must be at proper levels (wear personal protective equipment like rubber gloves, apron, and face shield when checking electrolytes)Electrolytes allow energy to flow between the truck and battery. If they aren’t at proper levels, your lifts performance will suffer (or it just won’t run).
  4. The hood latch should be secureYou don’t want a hood flying open and causing accidents. You also want to keep the hood secured to prevent debris/damage to the engine and all the other parts under there.

Type 2 – Internal Combustion Forklifts

  1. Check engine oil and engine coolantThe engine is one of the most expensive parts on a forklift and keeping fluid at the right levels keeps the engine healthy.
  2. Check the brake fluid
  3. Belts and hoses must be in good shape
  4. The radiator and air filter should also be in good shape
  5. The hood latch should be secure

Type 3 – Liquid Propane Forklifts

  1. Make sure the propane tank is properly mounted and secured
  2. Check for any tank damage/leaksLook for white frost or a funky smell! You might also hear a hissing noise if there’s a leak.
  3. The pressure relief valve should be pointing upThis ensures the tank is aligned properly with the truck; it prevents spraying accidents and also makes sure most of the LP gets used up
  4. Hoses and belts should be in good shape

Driving Checklists

All forklift types require the same driving checklist. Do this while the forklift is on.

  1. Make sure your steering, accelerator, and brakes work
  2. Check that your gears work (forward and reverse)
  3. Make sure the lift works (tilt and hoist)
  4. Check that the horn, lights, and backup alarm work

Creating A Forklift Maintenance Plan

Now that we’ve got the forklift safety basics out of the way, let’s move on to something more robust. Creating a forklift maintenance plan is something that will benefit your business for years to come. Like any other asset, forklifts need a proper preventive maintenance plan to ensure your company achieves its best bottom-line. A lot of companies outsource this function or purchase it with a new forklift. If your company has the resources make sure that your mechanics are qualified to make repairs.

1. Consider the Circumstances

The first step in creating a forklift maintenance plan is to consider what should be inspected and how often. These considerations will help you create a plan of action for the future. Ask yourself the following:

  • How old are your forklifts?Older lifts often require more frequent maintenance.
  • Have they been serviced appropriately in the past and is there a record of service?This also helps in determining what the maintenance schedule should look like for a particular forklift.
  • What are the safety requirements for your forklifts? Refer to the above info.Safety checks and requirements should be built into your maintenance plan.
  • Is the machine susceptible to damage (like alignment issues)?If so, you might want to consider adding extra checks to maintenance dates.
  • Are there colleagues or supervisors that could assist you in putting together the best plan?If so, reach out to them and note their advice.
  • What type of environment does the forklift operate in? When the cooler months roll around, doors are closed, and out-of-tune gasoline and propane-powered forklifts can generate carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless gas that is a great enough concentration, can be deadly.

2. Create A Forklift Maintenance Schedule

Now that you know what you’ve got to look out for, you can successfully begin to create a schedule for forklift maintenance. Preventive maintenance can save thousands of dollars per year. Consider the following questions while you’re piecing together the appropriate schedule.

  • What type of Forklifts do you have? Internal Combustion, Propane, or Electric?
  • What are the recommended preventive maintenance checks (refer to the list above)?
  • Which tasks will you perform? Which tasks do you want to outsource?
  • How often will these tasks need to be completed?

3. Coordinate with the forklift manufacturer’s recommended Maintenance Activities

Each powered industrial truck manufacturer has a recommended schedule of maintenance to be performed that may need to be adapted to the unique characteristics of your workplace. If your facility has a lot of particulate matter in the ambient air, like a paper plant, for instance, then the radiator of the powered industrial truck may be clogged easier, and may need to be checked more frequently.

Keep maintenance logs on each piece of equipment, oh and monitor the usage of the equipment. Hot rods have no place behind the wheel, especially in the workplace. Be safe!

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