Forklifts are useful, powerful and versatile tools designed for industrial heavy lifting and transportation of materials across short distances. Just like there are a variety of industry types and industrial settings, forklifts come in multiple shapes, sizes and varieties to serve different purposes, and they all require regular maintenance to keep them running efficiently.
It’s important to be aware of your machine’s features to maintain them properly. Depending on your industry, you may use or be in the market for any of these types of forklifts:
No matter the type of forklift your industry uses, one thing is certain — maintenance and upkeep is key to your company’s shipping, storing, loading, operating and safety. To help you ensure everything is running smoothly in your warehouses or industrial settings, we’ve compiled this list of advice on forklift maintenance.
Accidents happen where heavy machinery and vehicles are involved, especially in a large setting that relies on multiple lifting trucks to transport and control wares. Sometimes industrial mishaps are the result of mistakes, inattention or mishandling, but a surprising amount of dangers arise from improper maintenance.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, the sixth most-cited standard in workplace safety concerns was related to Powered Industrial Trucks.
Of the 2,855 annual violations, 617 citations involved issues with safe operation, and 255 mishaps cited maintenance and truck repair. Avoid such risks and accidents in your own industry by not only following OSHA’s safety standards, but also by upholding a regular maintenance routine to check the functionality and operability of your forklifts. Here’s what you may do:
Every day before kicking your forklift into gear, check essential features such as tires, oil, water and safety items like seatbelt, mirror, emergency disconnect and rating plate. We’ll cover daily checking points with the engine off and on in more detail later.
When your fork tines drag on the ground too often, you expose them to excessive wear. When you keep tines lowered, your forklift uses more fuel to carry the weight, and you’ll inevitably need to replace them more often. To avoid wear and extra costs, raise fork tines regularly.
If your forklift is constantly moving in the same direction and operating in the same route, you could have a problem with speedy tire wear. To keep your tires in better shape and ensure maximum efficiency, rotate them regularly. Replace tires and load wheels when necessary. You must also perform frequent checks on your tire pressure to prevent accidents resulting from load shifts and uneven turns. Keep the tire pressure just beneath or equal to the pounds per square inch recommended in your driver’s manual.
If you’re operating an electric-powered vehicle, make sure you’re keeping your batteries appropriately charged at the right time. Do not opportunity-charge several times during a shift — this will only reduce your battery life long-term. Instead, charge the battery once it’s at about 30%, and keep it charging until it’s done. Be sure to unplug it once it’s finished — overcharging can also have negative effects on long-term battery lifespan.
When your hoses wear out, they may begin to crack, split, leak or weaken. To avoid this kind of damage and the danger it poses, keep a constant eye on the condition of your forklift’s hydraulic hoses and be efficient about replacing damaged parts before they fail.
To keep a clean unit and prevent the common problem of a blocked radiator, make it part of your routine to rid your forklift of compressed air. You should do this by blowing out the unit about once a week.
Be mindful of standard operating temperatures for your forklift and make sure the various parts do not overheat. Overly high temperatures may cause hazardous conditions, so remove overheated trucks from the floor and do not place them back into use until the problem is addressed and corrected.
Keep your equipment clean by removing grease, oil and lint with non-combustible sanitary agents. When cleaning your industrial trucks, make sure to be mindful of toxicity, fire hazards and ventilation and take the necessary precautions.
Always make sure you and all operators have the proper training and licensing to handle and check the forklift equipment. Restricting operators to those with licensing and an understanding of OSHA standards contributes to better procedural safety, better forklift conditions and better assurances of efficient daily checks. Those with training will also have a strong understanding of the equipment’s boundaries, which will prevent the possibility of damage due to overloading.
Don’t ever continue to use damaged, outdated or faulty equipment, even if it still seems operational. Remain responsible and mindful of safety and optimal conditions for the site by removing and repairing industrial trucks that cannot operate under proper conditions.
OSHA recommends regular servicing and removal any power-operated industrial vehicle in an unsafe operating condition. You may maintain your forklift yourself by following these steps, but if there’s anything you’re unsure of, concerned about or don’t know how to properly fix — or even if it occurs to you that it’s been a long time since your last professional check — schedule a servicing. You should also make sure to stay informed on the specific vehicle manufacturer’s directions for maintenance.
If you spot an issue with your forklift, don’t wait until the machine isn’t functional and don’t put it off until later — report it! If you delay or forget, the problems will pass to the next operator, which may be dangerous. If an issue occurs during or before your shift, act immediately because shaky components may certainly wear down and become worse during the day. Staying on top of conditions immediately is the best way to ensure your machinery operates safely and with optimal performance.
Before using your forklift every day and for any purpose, you should perform standard checks to be sure everything is in working order and will operate smoothly for optimum safety and productivity. Prior to powering on your machine, make sure to regularly follow these maintenance tips:
Inspect your tires, forks and tines. This is where tire pressure, rotation and wear comes into play. Make sure everything is in optimum shape outside the forklift. You should also check beneath the vehicle to see if there are any leaks in oil, coolant or fuel. Lastly, take a look at the floor around your workspace and clear the area of any obstacles that could interfere with your pathway.
Make sure everything is right with your engine before you start it. Pay attention to the level of the engine oil and the state of the filter — change them if necessary. Check your belt conditions, tighten the clamps on your hoses and check to see if your fuel lines have any leaks.
Check all the main systems to make sure you keep fluids above the minimum level. Pay special attention to the transmission, master brake cylinder, hydraulic system, coolant, conditioner and steering system.
To work smoothly and function well, all your machine’s parts should be well-oiled. Before you turn on your forklift’s machine, make sure to lubricate the brakes, chains, hinges, attachments and clutch and acceleration pedals. Taking care of all its mechanisms ensures your forklift runs better and longer.
When you’ve double-checked everything with the engine off and revved up your forklift for your shift, you should still test a few operations to maintain the machine and be confident in its safety and operability. Here’s what to look for:
You should always be able to alert other operators to your presence or send out a warning signal. Before the daily shipment and transportation rounds, give your horn a few good blasts to be certain it’s audible over all the other noises in the facility.
According to OSHA, 42 percent of forklift-related fatalities occur because operators aren’t strapped into a vehicle correctly when it tips.
Operators should always use seatbelts, and this means their functionality is essential. For your own safety and the safety of other operators, make sure the seatbelt works properly and smoothly before gearing your forklift into drive. When you’re strapped in and secure, you make sure you’re protected and equipped to handle both standard work or unforeseen issues.
It’s essential to double-check the responsiveness of your lifting truck’s brakes before you dig into the work. To avoid messy, hazardous accidents caused by brake delay or inoperability, test out the foot and parking brakes prior to moving or lifting anything. If the response is timely, you’re good to go.
A faulty light might not seem like a huge impediment to forklift function, but any error may affect your vehicle’s function and safety. Once the machine is on, make sure the headlights are operating correctly, and the warning lights turn on. Taking the time to check now could save you from a sticky situation later.
Your exhaust system is crucial to the functioning of the machine, so make sure everything is working before you start working your forklift for the day.
Depending on various factors — such as your particular truck type, the volume of work and environmental conditions of indoor or outdoor use — you will need to service your forklift at different intervals. Every six months is a good baseline standard for technician checks, but consult your manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you’re giving your machine the servicing it requires. Sometimes, servicing intervals as frequent as 90 days is necessary.
You should also schedule servicing whenever your forklift is in an unsafe condition, according to OSHA standards. Here are some faults that require professional repair and attention:
Even if your forklift isn’t damaged and you conduct daily checks, intermittent professional servicing is still important for long-term upkeep, functionality and safety.
When it’s time for repair, servicing, professional maintenance or training for forklift operation, McCall Handling is the company to call. With more than 65 years of personalized experience in industrial vehicle sales and services, we’re your lift truck and material handling equipment experts in Maryland, Virginia and the D.C. area.
Whether you need new equipment, replacement parts, technical repair or standard servicing, we’ll make sure your forklifts are fully functional, safe and exceptionally efficient. If you’re looking for operator training options, we’ve got you covered there, too. With McCall, you can expect friendly service, personal attention, knowledgeable staff and professional results, so trust us with all your industrial handling equipment needs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 1-888-870-0685 or contact us online today. We’re waiting to help.