Forklift Maintenance Safety

One of the biggest questions I get from companies that want to do their own service or maintenance work is they want to know what safety procedures they should follow when servicing their forklift trucks. My answer is always the same and I will spell it out for you especially if you're one of those companies that want to start their own maintenance program.

The first thing I would say is to only let someone that has a mechanical background or someone that you've hired that has knowledge of maintaining forklifts perfrom the work.

If you have someone that you want to train to do the maintenance on your forklifts make sure they have someone with experience to help them first so they do not get themselves hurt which causes lost time and maybe worker comp claims. Nobody wants that. I believe that anyone that has good mechanical skills can do maintenance on your forklifts as long as they're properly instructed.

Now with that said, common sense plays a large part when doing maintenance on forklifts or any other type of equipment.

For example:

  • If you are going to be grinding or welding you should have a proper eye protection and gloves.
  • If you are going to be handling LPG fuel tanks you should wear leather gloves.
  • If you're going to be handling batteries or you're going to be using battery chargers then you might want to wear gloves and rubber boots.

 This is just common sense.

Let's say you're going to do a basic maintenance check first thing in the morning before anyone starts using the equipment.

It's almost like checking your car, you're going to start by checking the oil, water, battery, tires and depending on what type of forklift you're working on you may want to check the hydraulic fluid. Keep in mind when checking the hydraulic fluid every thing should be closed up and forks on the ground. Never, ever stand underneath of raised forks - period.

When you open any hood on any forklift be sure it is secure. Many people have put knots on their heads because a hood was not secure.

While you're checking the oil and water you can also check the belts. Personally I always like to start the machine up first to just listen to the way the machine is running. I am listening for engine knocks or maybe some squealing from a loose belt.

Before you start the machine make sure the brake is secure and you have blocked the wheels. The last thing you need is a runaway forklift. It seems funny but I've seen it happen and a runaway forklift is very dangerous. Safety should always be first on your mind; you can never be too safe.

While the machine is running I checked the horn, the lights and the brake pedal. While I'm sitting on the forklift pushing down on the brake I put the machine into reverse and make sure the backup alarm is working properly. After It runs for about 5 to 10 minutes I shut it off and while it's cooling down I will go around and grease the machine where it's needed.

You can do this in any manner you want. I like running the machine first before I check under the hood. If you want to check under the hood first that is perfectly okay. It's just my preference to listen to the engine running first so I can try to pick up anything that may be wrong.

Just doing these simple steps each morning can save your company thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs later down the road.

Now if you're going to be doing some engine work where you are actually are going to be taking things apart your safety procedures may be a little different. 

  • Wear proper equipment when working on for the forklift
  • Secure and lock the wheels so it cannot move
  • Make sure you shut off the LP tank valve and leave the engine run untill it stops on it's own, then you can disconnect tank from hose

The reason you let the engine stop on it's own is so you know that there is no LP gas left in the motor.

SAFTY FIRST - you don't want anything to explode!

One thing that I am a stickler on is keeping my work area clean and well lit. If you spill something like oil, hydraulic fluid or even anti-freeze it's simple - clean it up. You do not want to be slipping and sliding while you're trying to work on the forklift.

The next thing I like to do after I have removed the LP tank and secured the hood is to disconnect the battery. Sometimes I remove the battery completely or I will cover the battery with some kind of insulating blanket. Just do one or the other.

Another thing I always like to do is either lay out my tools or roll my box over to the machine. That way it cuts down on your walking or getting up. Make sure you keep your tools clean at all times. This will help keep the tools from slipping and cracking your knuckles on something that you do not want to.

I hope this has helped you to understand why certain items are done before you start doing any maintenance work. I have seen people get in a hurry and take short cuts on their safety. Most of the time nothing ever happens but sometimes it cost someone their life.

Be safe someone loves you!