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With Britain due to face a cold snap over the winter that could last for up to four months, it’s important to know ahead of time how best to keep your forklift running reliably and safely when the temperature drops. Just because the weather gets worse doesn’t mean business can come to a stand-still, but the safety of your forklift operators and the mechanical care of the forklift itself can suffer in a cold spell unless you’re properly prepared.
Here are some things to keep in mind about operating a forklift in cold weather.
You can prepare a forklift as well as you like, but you’re far more likely to experience an accident if the operator doesn’t understand how to safely drive the vehicle than through pure mechanical failure. Make sure that your forklift operators are familiar with the best ways to negotiate cold weather without losing traction.
It’s also important to go over the necessary checks on the forklift that need to be done in order to keep it running properly. These checks must be done every time before the forklift is used; otherwise, there could be considerable damage done to the engine and other internal components. Once the forklift is no longer required it should be parked safely and securely, preferably in a sheltered location.
The biggest single cause of pretty much every accident in the workplace is human error, and a well-prepared forklift, unfortunately, can’t save you from a poorly prepared operator. So invest in some proper cold weather training for your forklift drivers.
Forklift engines are designed to be as durable as possible, but you can’t get around physics. As such, one of the first potential problems in any piece of machinery that’s being used in unusually cold temperatures is the fluids becoming frozen. Diesel has a tendency to jellify when it’s exposed to colder temperatures, which could not only make the engine highly inefficient but may also cause expensive damage.
Another easy way to damage a forklift over the colder months is to rush. During the warmer months, you may be used to just jumping into the forklift after your daily checks, starting it up, and getting on with it. This usually isn’t too much of an issue because when the overall temperature is warm the forklift won’t have had an opportunity to cool down too far from its operating temperature.
This becomes a different issue in the cold, however, so it’s essential that you take the time to let the engine and the forklift’s hydraulics warm up properly before you move anywhere. If you don’t, you run the risk of encouraging premature wear on the components, and if they’re not warmed up properly they won’t work as intended, which could become a safety hazard.
While the forklift is warming up, use that time to do a double check around the vehicle to make sure that it’s in proper working condition. Pay special attention to the tyres of your forklift, as colder than normal temperatures can cause the rubber to become cracked and the wheel nuts to become brittle.
The worst thing is to be caught out by cold weather. Winters always vary from a little bit chilly to full-on frozen, but it always pays to be properly prepared so you don’t have to waste time when the weather does turn for the worst. It has been predicted with reasonable assurance that our coming winter is going to be colder than usual, so start planning now.
That means refreshing yourself and your operators on proper cold weather driving procedures, developing a cold weather daily checklist for your forklifts, and investing in some winterised diesel, oil, and other lubricants. Doing so ahead of time will mean you won’t be caught out when the weather bites.