Why use daily safety checks for forklifts?

Daily safety checks for forklifts are vital. Staying safe at work is at the forefront of everyone’s wishes, but when your work involves operating heavy machinery you have a larger responsibility to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. The general purpose of carrying out daily checks on your forklift is to ensure that it adheres to regulations and is in a fit, sound condition and is able to be used as expected. Only through carrying out these checks on a daily basis can you be certain that the forklift you’re working with is entirely safe to operate. When operating a forklift, you are not only responsible for ensuring that you keep yourself safe and carry out the job you are doing appropriately – you must also be aware of those around you and the checks you carry out on a daily basis are there to keep your colleagues safe in the same way they keep you safe. Failure to carry out these checks can result in serious consequences so understanding the importance of each check is essential.

What are the daily safety checks for forklifts and why should I do them?

Doing the same checks on a daily basis can arguably be frustrating and the temptation to make assumptions might lay at the back of your mind – not checking your forklift every day can, of course, be detrimental and you don’t want to miss a fault or risk someone’s safety by not carrying the checks out properly. You should start off your checks by checking the previous day’s log – any issues that may have been highlighted yesterday ought to have been checked and fixed where appropriate and if this is not the case, the forklift should not be taken into operational use. Logs should be kept for up to six months so any issues that have been reported in the past will be on record for you to look over if needed.

Visual checks

The vast majority of forklift safety checks start off with visual checks – that is, looking over the equipment and acknowledging anything that you can see is wrong with the equipment. Forklift operators should observe whether there is any damage to the forklift itself – are any of the parts bent, dented or broken as a result of use. Observe the tires and wheels – make sure they are appropriately inflated and that your forklift doesn’t have any flat tires. Take the time to check each tire individually – having a flat tyre can be costly, resulting in business downtime.

In the same way, ensure that the forks themselves are secure and are uncracked, not too badly worn and aren’t bent out of position. Not only will this limit the amount of replacement expense if they are indeed in need of repair, but also will limit potential damage carried out if you choose to use the forklift with damaged forks.

Make sure that all of the chains, hoses and cables are secure in their place and that guards are secure as well. Doing so confirms your own safety when operating the vehicle. Your forklift’s battery should be in good condition, as should the cable and its connecter. Your battery retainer should be securely in place and not at risk of disconnecting.

Observe the machinery’s mechanical safety devices – the seat belt or harness should be available and secure, there should be a fire extinguisher available and operational in case of an emergency and warning labels should be visible and in good condition. Such devices are required by law and not having them safely in place can risk your operational licence. Leaks can indicate serious issues so check the area around where your forklift has been parked – underneath and around the forklift itself – for any obvious fluid leaks.

Operational checks

With your visual checks carried out, operational checks are just as important. Operational checks require you to actively carry out and test certain aspects of the forklift’s utility. After visually checking your vehicle, you should ensure that the machine is able to power up – turn on the key and make sure that indicator lights and alarms are all in good working condition. You should also make sure that your forklift is able to completely disconnect power – a facility that is essential should the worst happen and you need to cut off the electricity immediately.

Your forklift should be fitted with electrical safety devices, facilities that allow you to indicate to others should you be in danger. Ensure that your horn and other audible signals are in working condition and that your entry bar, flashing lights and indicator lights have working bulbs. Checks such as these shouldn’t be all that much to replace but should you need them in an emergency situation and they’re not in good working condition could be especially costly.

Check and observe the steering on your forklift – there should be absolutely no binding and no excessive play. You should check that the braking and plugging distances on your forklift are appropriately so, whilst travelling slowly and then check them at higher speeds if they are sound – the forklift should have smooth acceleration and shouldn’t jerk around at any point. Your parking brake should be operational and smooth. Brakes should be regularly tested to ensure they are working at maximum performance – a working foot brake shouldn’t require all that much pressure applied in order to get a positive response so if you notice that extensive force is necessary then you may have a deeper issue. Your parking brake should ensure that your forklift doesn’t move whilst on an incline. Brake lights, of course, should also be in working order and any bulbs that don’t work should be replaced immediately.

Your forklift relies entirely on being able to manoeuvre as necessarily and consequently relies on how responsive the steering system itself is – pay attention to how the steering wheel responds to your commands and how much force you need to steer it. If, for example, more force is needed than usual than an external issue, such as tyre pressure or wheel alignment, could be indicative in this test.

Hydraulic controls and functions should work smoothly – at no point should hydraulic functions operate with an unusual noise and should be checked immediately if they sound off. Any attachments that are connected to the forklift should function appropriately without noise and should be secure in their place – especially where the attachments themselves are removable. Risk of the part falling off mid-use can cause damage to both the forklift itself and risk the safety of those operating around you.

Alongside visual checks of the battery, you should also check the functionality of the battery when carrying out your daily checks. The battery should be fully charged – its discharge meter should be in full green – or else at least 75% charge when forks are raised. The battery itself should be clean and clear from debris. Ensure that the battery is safely held within its compartment and there is no risk of it becoming disconnected – safety hatches should be properly closed. Make sure to wear eye protection and gloves when checking the battery.

Limit switches should be tested and operational. You should ensure that all wires are in working order and everything is connected appropriately – make sure that the alarm is in working order and test wire guidance by slowly driving off and braking. Ensure that all safety mechanisms are in place as far as end aisle control is concerned – the forklift’s alarm should beep and the vehicle itself should slow down and consequently stop as programmed when in aisle end mode. Different forklifts have different limits as far as loading is concerned and you should make sure that you are aware of the particular limits of the forklift you are operating before loading- failure to do so could result in your using the wrong forklift and not being able to carry out your task safely and efficiently.

What to do if you notice an error or issue

It’s important, when doing your daily checks, to ensure that all the above are applicable. Where an error is found or else a particular check highlights a safety concern or an error, the forklift itself should be taken out of operational use until it has been inspected and repaired as appropriate. Failing to do so can result in much more serious consequences. At the same time, if your forklift becomes unsafe in any way whilst in operation you should ensure that you stop use immediately and report to the designated authority.

There’s no such thing as a stupid question as far as heavy machinery safety is concerned, so if you have any concerns at all then ask your supervisor to take a look over your vehicle. Under no condition should a vehicle be used if it is suspected of not being in safe condition. The employer has a responsibility to keep their workers safe from harm and not adhering by failing to carry out daily checks on equipment can result in failure. Employees have a duty of reasonable care and should co-operate by carrying out these daily checks.