Forklifts are some of the most commonly used pieces of construction equipment, helpful for a wide range of material handling needs. But operating one can be dangerous, especially if you aren’t following safety protocols.
An operator should conduct a forklift inspection every day before using a forklift. Daily forklift inspections are even required by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Inspecting forklifts keeps workers safe and helps identify maintenance issues before they become potential hazards. In this post, we provide some easy-to-use safety checklists for any type of forklift in your workplace.
Table of Contents
- Why It’s Important to Conduct Forklift Safety Checks
- How to Conduct a Daily Forklift Safety Inspection
- Visual Pre-operation Inspection Checklists
- Operational Inspection Checklist
- Safety Considerations During Operation
- Long-Term Forklift Truck Maintenance Checks
- How to Operate a Forklift Safely
- Rent a Well-maintained Forklift
Why It’s Important to Conduct Forklift Safety Checks
Under standard number 29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7), OSHA requires pre-use safety inspections for all powered industrial trucks. This means that an operator has to inspect a forklift prior to using it, ensuring that it’s in proper working order. If the forklift is operated on a round-the-clock basis, it has to be inspected after every shift.
If an inspection identifies any issue that could affect a forklift’s function, the forklift shouldn’t be used. All defects have to be documented and reported to a supervisor immediately and then repaired by a qualified mechanic.
It’s important to inspect a forklift before using it because:
- It ensures the forklift is safe to use, protecting operators and workers from accidents and injuries.
- It reduces project downtime by identifying equipment that needs repairs in advance.
- Proper maintenance extends the service lifespan and potential resale value of your equipment.
How to Conduct a Daily Forklift Safety Inspection
Inspecting a forklift involves two main safety checks:
- A visual pre-operational inspection while the engine is off
- An operational inspection while the engine is on
Because there are many types of forklifts, and vehicles can differ by manufacturer, you should refer to the manufacturer’s operator manual for specific instructions. Before you start an inspection, be sure you’re wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) just as you would if you were operating the machine, like a hard hat, safety boots, safety glasses, and safety gloves.
Daily safety inspections may sound like a lot, but they don’t have to be long or complex. Here are some forklift inspection checklists to help you with each stage of your inspection.
Visual Pre-operation Inspection Checklists
Your pre-operation or pre-start forklift inspection happens before you start your forklift truck, while the engine is off. Here’s what to look for in your visual check, depending on what type of forklift you’re inspecting.
All Forklift Trucks
When inspecting any lift truck, make sure that:
- All fluid levels, like engine oil, water, coolant, and hydraulic fluid, depending on the type of forklift, are in a safe range and there are no leaks.
- There is no physical damage, excessive wear, or other visible issues (like dents, cracks, and broken parts).
- Hydraulic hoses are connected properly.
- Mast chain tension is sufficient.
- The tires are in good condition, with no cuts or gouges and adequate air pressure.
- All forks are secured in place and in good condition.
- All guards, like the overhead guard or roll over protection structure, are in place and in good condition.
- All safety notices, like decals and nameplates, are in place and legible.
- The operator compartment is clean and all of the controls work.
- The operator manual is inside the truck and is legible.
- The seat locks in position and the seatbelt is working properly.
For electric forklifts, also make sure that:
- All cables, connectors, and battery restraints are in good condition and there are no exposed wires.
- Electrolyte levels in the battery are adequate. (Remember to wear PPE when checking this.)
- The hood latch works properly.
Internal Combustion Forklifts
For internal combustion forklifts, also make sure that:
- Oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels are adequate.
- The air filter and radiator are in good working condition.
- All hoses and belts are in good condition and function properly.
- The hood latch works properly.
Liquid Propane Forklifts
For internal liquid propane forklifts, also make sure that:
- The tank is mounted correctly, with working restraints, and the pressure relief valve is pointing up.
- All connectors and hoses are in good condition.
- The tank has no visible dents, cracks, or leaks.
- The tank fits properly on the truck.
Operational Inspection Checklist
After you complete the pre-operational inspection, you should then move on to the operational check, conducted while the engine is running. This inspection checklist applies to any type of forklift.
Make sure that all of these forklift parts are functioning properly:
- The horn and all indicator lights and alarms, including the back-up alarm
- The foot brakes, steering wheel, and accelerator
- The parking brake
- The forward and reverse gears
- All hydraulic controls
- All forklift attachments
- All limit switches
By running the engine you can listen for unusual noises or vibrations coming from the machine. If you notice any, you should report them immediately to a supervisor.
Safety Considerations During Operation
Checking the vehicle before you operate it helps ensure it’s safe to use, but sometimes issues don’t come up until you’re already using the equipment.
As you perform your tasks, always be vigilant and be aware of issues such as:
- The forklift emitting sparks or flames from the exhaust
- Any part of the forklift exceeding its normal operating temperature
- Leaks appearing
- Mechanical breakdowns or noticeable defects
According to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.178, if you encounter any of the above conditions while operating a forklift, you should stop the vehicle and get immediate assistance.
Long-Term Forklift Truck Maintenance Checks
In addition to checking the forklift daily, you should properly maintain your forklift over time because issues may arise as a result of regular wear and use.
Manufacturers recommend the following longer-term maintenance checks for new forklifts:
- A service every 250 hours of use for minor maintenance
- A service every 500 hours of use (about every three to six months) for intermediate maintenance.
- A service after 2,000 hours of use (about once a year) for major maintenance
The following checklists provide an overview of the essential maintenance during each of these timeframes.
Minor Maintenance (250 hours)
Every 250 hours of use, make sure that you:
- Change the oil and oil filter
- Clean or change the engine cooling system and air filter
- Inspect the drive belt
- Tighten the cylinder head bolts
- Adjust the engine idle speed and ignition timing
- Tighten the wheel and hub nuts
- Clean and lubricate the mast, frame, and chain
- Lubricate the drive and steering wheels
- Replace the transmission filter
- Top up the brake fluid
These minor maintenance tasks are usually simple to perform but have a large impact on the operability of the forklift.
Intermediate Maintenance (500 hours)
Every 500 hours make sure that you perform the following intermediate tasks:
- Change the fuel filter
- Adjust the valve clearance
- Replace the spark plugs
- Drain the water separator and clean the radiator
- Replace the hydraulic filter
- Test chain lift tension
These maintenance tasks should be conducted in addition to the previous ones.
Major Maintenance (2,000 hours)
Finally, every 2,000 hours, you should perform the following major maintenance checks in addition to the minor and intermediate ones:
- Replace the coolant
- Change the fuel strainer and water separator
- Replace the distribution belt and gasket seal
- Clean or replace the interior ventilation filter
- Replace the wheel bearing grease
- Replace the transmission filter and oil
- Change the hydraulic oil
- Change the brake fluid
These major maintenance checks are the most comprehensive and time consuming but are essential.
How to Operate a Forklift Safely
Forklift safety comes down to how skillfully you operate the vehicle as well as your awareness of your surroundings. Here are some ways to ensure you’re operating your forklift safely at your workplace.
1. Obtain OSHA-Approved Certification
Only trained forklift operators who are licensed according to OSHA standards should operate forklifts. This not only ensures operator safety but also the safety of everyone else on site.
OSHA standards vary by state and by what type of forklift is in use, so be sure to look up the appropriate standards for your specific situation.
2. Understand the Forklift Type
Always make sure that you or your staff are fully trained to operate the specific type of machine you have.
Each type of forklift has its own unique structure, weight limit, traveling speed, and turning radius, and these factors greatly affect how the vehicle can be used.
In addition, make sure that you consult the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions when repairing or maintaining your forklift, as small differences often go unnoticed but may affect what is required.
3. Keep the Forklifts Clean
Oil and grease can build up on a daily basis and affect how the forklift drives as well as the safety of the operator using the controls. You may not realize there’s an issue until it’s too late.
The importance of keeping your machine clean is often overlooked, but it’s as vital in the long term as maintaining the engine and the parts like the mast.
4. Be Aware of the Work Area
The forklift itself isn’t the only source of potential hazards on your jobsite. Make sure you’re aware of what’s happening in the area around you. When operating your forklift, look out for things like:
- Other vehicles
- Clearance when raising or loading
- Pedestrians and the speed limit
Many accidents are caused by drivers who are paying attention to their machine, but not what’s happening around them.
Rent a Well-maintained Forklift
If you’re in need of a forklift to rent, you’ve come to the right place. With a wide variety of available forklifts, from manual to industrial, BigRentz has the equipment to meet all your material handling needs.