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Moving Violations: The dos and don’ts of safe forklift maintenance


An experienced forklift operator should already be familiar with the ins and outs of forklift safety. Most Canadian provinces have regulations that specify only a "competent person" may operate a forklift, in an attempt to ensure operators know the proper safety procedures before getting in the truck.

There is more to forklift safety than just safe operation— there is also general safety inspection and maintenance. In Ontario, for example, the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires the employer, as the owner of the equipment, to ensure periodic examination of powered lift trucks. The Act recommends owners fulfill this requirement by establishing procedures for regular inspection and repair at the workplace.

What do you do as the plant manager or maintenance manager if this responsibility falls into your lap? The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) has some safety tips that might help.

DOs

  • Do permit only qualified people to service and maintain equipment.
  • Do wear proper personal protective equipment. For example, wear goggles when grinding, or wear face shields, aprons and rubber boots when handling lead-acid batteries or working around battery-charging equipment.
  • Do disconnect all batteries before doing any work.
  • Do block the forklift securely when removing wheels.
  • Do support the forklift hood in upright posi- tion or remove entirely before beginning work.
  • Do keep the work area clean and well-lit.
  • Do clean spilled oil or hydraulic fluid immediately.
  • Do remove all tools and parts before starting the engine.
  • Do avoid contact with battery terminals with hoisting chains, tools and metal objects.
  • Do attach a chain hoist to the counterweight before removing it from a forklift.
  • Do use magnet particle testing to inspect all hoses, couplings, fittings and connections to the cylinders in the main mast assembly and the tilt control system.

DON’Ts

  • DON’T leave parts, creepers, cans, tools or other obstacles around.
  • DON’T lift beyond your capacity. Use hoist or leverage tools to lift or move heavy parts or equipment.
  • DON’T smoke, weld or light a match around refueling and battery-charging areas.
  • DON’T start a forklift if its is on a lift hoist or wheel stands.
  • DON’T work on forklift attachments unless you are familiar with their operation.
  • DON’T work beneath elevated forklifts or forks unless they are securely supported by approved blocks.
  • DON’T run propane, gas or diesel forklifts in unventilated areas.
  • DON’T start or drive a forklift before knowing why it is for repairs.
  • DON’T perform any repairs without checking the operator’s daily checklist.
  • DON’T forget to cover the battery top with an insulating material.

Remember the "fork" in forklift
Forklift maintenance doesn’t end with the truck itself. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) recommends both daily and six month inspections of the forks on a forklift truck.

CCOHS says that operators should make a daily visual inspection of forks during the pre-start-up check, especially looking for permanent distortions and cracks. A trained individual should be called in every six months to check for cracks and distortion. Some of the most important points to cover in a six month inspection include:

  • Check fork blades for wear. CCOHS says forks are constantly subjected to abrasion by things such as concrete floors and steel shelving. Abrasion can reduce the thickness of a fork until it cannot lift loads up to the designed capacity.
  • Check for distortion. Forks can be bent out of shape. Contact the forklift manufacturer to find out if the fork can be straightened.
  • Check for cracks in heel and hanger. Cracks can appear on forks where attachments are welded on or in the inside radius of the bend area. Use a magnetic particle or dye penetrant test to detect cracks.
  • If necessary, replace the forks with good-quality forks. Insist on forged forks or ones with an upset heel.
  • Use the proper forks for the job. You may need to order custom-designed forks for things such as unusual lifting conditions, spark-free areas, high-heat furnace areas or special object lifting. Contact your forklift supplier for assistance.
  • Contact your fork manufacturer to undertake any repairs needed.

For more information on forklift safety, visit the CCOHS Web site at www.ccohs.ca.


Alison Dunn is the assistant editor of PEM Plant Engineering and Maintenance and the editor of industrialsourcebook.com. You can reach her at editor@industrialsourcebook.com