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What is the prevailing attitude at your workplace towards forklift oil leaks? Do you opt to refill the oil then handle the leakage later, when work is done or merely wait for the machine to break down?
Most forklift operators and floor supervisors do not take these leaks seriously, and when they do, it is usually too late. Here is why forklift leaks deserve immediate attention.
Leaking fluids precede most catastrophic breakdowns and accidents. Thick black or tan oily leakage, for example, indicates a problem with the transmission, axle, differential or steering gears. Such requires immediate attention to avoid putting others at risk. If you cannot tell where the leak is coming from due to the colour of the oil, then call an experienced engineer.
Several operators believe that as long as the mast rises to its full length, then the forklift has sufficient oil. However, a regular forklift has about four to five extra gallons of oil reserved for cooling its moving parts. Continuous leakage will drain these reserves hindering proper cooling of the components. Unfortunately, heat easily destroys some of the most expensive parts of a forklift such as pumps.
The other machine killers besides heat are dirt and contaminants. The fact that a system is leaking indicates that it is open to the outside elements. It is, therefore, possible for the transmission system, for example, to draw in dirt and other contaminants. They will clog the oil filters, but more importantly will clog the spool valves, which will make the clutch packs slip contaminate the oil and eventually destroy the engine, and other parts.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration considers a continuous oil leak as a workplace hazard. Therefore, ignoring them can attract OSHA’s fine and other penalties. You think your employer will pay the fines gladly, and then reward your negligence with a promotion, right? Me neither.
Oil on the floor is the last thing you need where you have both human and equipment traffic. It makes other workers vulnerable to slips and falls. The resulting injuries can attract high compensation claims. It is worse when the path is between machines or hot or corrosive fluids, but far more serious would be danger of death from a hydraulic leak due to the pressure the hydraulic oil is under.
The temperature of fluids in such hydraulic systems as in the forklift can sometimes rise to 3000F. They can cause severe burns if they escape through an unattended leak.
Oil and other hydraulic fluid leaks make a place vulnerable to fire. Paper, clothes, and wraps that have been soaked in oil will burst into flames at the slightest source of ignition. Operators and others who smoke close to the forklift also put themselves in danger when there are unattended leaks in the machine.
Having a consistent leakage implies continuous refilling to keep the forklift running at optimum efficiency. The replacement increases the cost of operating the machine in the long run. The total cost of refilling leaked oil over an extended period is almost always higher than the cost of repairing the faulty part.
There is also a loss in production time whenever you have to stop the forklift to refill the oil. When the oil level is low, you will have to stop now and then to let the components cool down. Even if it takes only 5 minutes a day, the total lost production time will be 25 hours in 300 days.
It is crucial to consider forklift oil leaks as warnings signs of impending dangers. Neglecting such warnings allows the problem to progress leading to an expensive repair. Additionally, you put yourself and others in harm’s way.