Bad weather will strike at some point, especially in winter, and it can impact productivity. Developing a proactive plan prepares your business for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.
Face it, weather can strike at any time, causing unforeseen challenges. According to OSHA, 11% of forklift trucks will be involved in an accident each year, and many of these accidents will occur during winter months. This typically occurs when operators are not properly trained to use a forklift in snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures.
In fact, OSHA found that 50% of the accidents could have been avoided if the operators had received proper training.
How you can be prepared:
- Ensure forklift operators recognize and understand winter hazards. Hazards can be avoided if both your operators and forklifts are prepared and protected against:
- Cold weather
- Wet and slippery conditions
- Limited visibility
- Use data to determine maintenance needs as well as to visualize trending event patterns from previous winters.
- Maintenance report cards provide data on what needs annual maintenance.
- Safety checklists can be developed or updated to ensure operators and forklifts are safe before operation.
- Operator report cards provide data on infractions, such as speed and impact rates, to determine if additional or refresher training is needed.
How operators can be prepared:
- Provide annual training pertaining to defensive driving during inclement weather.
- Consider using forklifts with screens with wipers and fitted heaters.
- Ensure operators who work outside are properly dressed to stay warm and dry to allow them to continue working comfortably.
- Visibility can be restricted in inclement weather, so ensure the operator clothing you provide is reflective and highly visible.
What more can be done?
Some forklifts can experience a 25-50% decrease in cycle times during cold weather. Lift-trucks should go through annual winter weather preparation. Appropriate tires, chains, or studs should be used to provide additional grip when the ground is covered with snow and ice. Consider high-quality lift covers to protect forklifts from wind, rain, and ice.
Here’s a few additional precautions you can take:
- Check fuel, oil, and de-icer levels, and always allow forklifts the time to properly warm up.
- Restrict speeds to ensure operators can always see where they are going and can keep an eye on slippery surfaces.
- Remind drivers to be extra vigilant — harsh weather can be distracting.
- Clean forklifts and complete necessary maintenance, since salt and dirt build-up could affect safety during operation.
- Ensure that all of your annual maintenance and regular inspections are up to date.
- Use high-quality hydraulic fluid, if necessary.
- Store forklifts in a dry area and use a battery warmer if necessary.
You can’t control the weather, but you can create a plan to limit its impact on productivity and safe forklift operation. An ounce of prevention is easy with checklists and telematic monitoring to ensure maintenance, speed, and cold-weather preparations are completed.