Forklift Safety Tips for Operating in Extreme Weather

February 09, 2021

Forklift tire chains used in extreme forklift conditions

Adhering to forklift safety tips for winter weather is critical to the success of your business. Not only is cold weather tough on equipment, but it can be incredibly difficult to operate in.

Educate your employees on proper winter weather safety techniques. This will not only protect them from dangerous accidents but will encourage productivity and efficiency at your workplace. Operating in extreme forklift conditions is no joke. Make sure they’re familiar with proper techniques for using a forklift in inclement weather.

No matter what Mother Nature throws at you this winter, keep business running smoothly and safely. Use these forklift safety tips to protect your employees during the colder months.

Forklift Hazards

First, let’s go over some common, weather-related forklift hazards that you may encounter this winter.

Of course, snow and ice are huge ones. A common question from operators is whether or not electric forklifts can be used in the rain. The answer is yes - almost all modern electric forklifts are water-resistant. You can use this equipment type in wet conditions without worrying about operator safety.

However, an electric forklift may not be able to handle large amounts of mud caused by rain or snow. Forklift operation in extreme conditions may require more power. An internal combustion forklift is a better option. If you do decide to use an electric forklift, keep in mind that cold weather can decrease battery cycle times by 25-50%.

Extreme forklift conditions like rain, snow, and sleet have negative effects on operation. For instance, restricted maneuverability, less responsive brakes, slick forks, and limited visibility are all huge forklift hazards. Operators should drive slowly and use safety features like the horn and lights.

Also, try to avoid switching back and forth from outside to inside frequently during operation. Tracking water and mud inside will only exacerbate unsafe conditions. It will difficult for the tires to grip the smooth surface of an indoor facility. Constant changes in humidity can also damage the equipment.

If rain turns into a thunderstorm, stop operating. Never operate a forklift outside when there is lightning. Always keep these forklift safety tips in mind to avoid dangerous accidents.

Extreme Forklift Conditions

Dangerous weather conditions happen. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid them. However, you can control how you respond to extreme forklift conditions.

Here are some quick forklift safety tips for winter weather:

1. Slush and ice affect brake responsiveness. Only operate outside with pneumatic tires. Also, consider investing in forklift tire chains for extra winter weather safety.

2. Check your brakes often. Learn how to perform a brake inspection here.

3. Let the forklift warm up before operating. Give the engine and hydraulics systems a moment to adjust their temperature.

4. Prepare your equipment for cold weather with these winter forklift maintenance tips.

5. Make sure operators have proper clothes - and that they actually wear them! Protective, non-slip footwear is a must, as well as fitted, high-visibility outerwear. Gloves with a non-slip grip are also a great option.

6. For open-cab equipment, purchase a clear forklift cover. Clear vinyl is probably the most durable option. This will protect the controls from water damage.

Educate your operators about common forklift hazards during the winter. Post reminders to maintain a high level of safety and productivity in the workplace.

Winter Weather Safety

In addition to these tactics, there are other things you can do to ensure cold weather safety. For instance, schedule regular servicing and load tests. Cold temperatures can affect functionality, so these precautions will help ensure safety and prevent future repairs.

While snow plow attachments are available, they are only intended for temporary use on pneumatic tire forklifts. Practice caution when using this technology, as forklifts aren’t designed to push loads. You may want to use salters or sanders to deal with surface snow and ice instead.

Be sure to keep employees updated on weather conditions. Increase cold weather safety by posting warnings near potential environmental hazards. Do your best to increase visibility with large traffic arrows and other signage.

Two propane forklifts parked outside in the snow

Business as Usual

It is critical to maintain a productive and efficient work environment without interruption, regardless of the season. No matter what’s going on outside, you have a business to run.

Of course, forklift operation in extreme conditions is not something to take lightly. Precautions and safety measures need to be followed in order to protect equipment, operators, and pedestrians.

When addressing forklift operation in extreme conditions, keep all of these tips and tricks in mind. Remember the importance of operating safely in less than ideal conditions.

Keep in mind that even if you succeed in following these guidelines, your facility may not be safe. The condition of your equipment plays a large role in cold weather safety. If your equipment is unsafe, no amount of caution will be able to protect the operator.

Is your equipment always in the shop? It may be time for a replacement. Luckily, Forklift Inventory can help. Just let us know what forklift type you’re looking for and our experts will match you with free price quotes on each of your options.

Compare forklifts for sale before you choose. Get started today.

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