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What Must Be Done Daily Before Using a Forklift?

What Must Be Done Daily Before Using a Forklift?

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

Explore All Forklifts

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.

daily forklift inspection checklist

download forklift inspection sheet

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.

Electric Forklifts

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

Also, make sure that there are no unusual noises or vibrations coming from the forklift. If there are, report them immediately.

Safety Considerations During Operation

While checking the vehicle before you use it helps ensure you’ll operate it safely, it’s also important to pay attention to any issues that come up while you’re using a forklift. According to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.178, if you encounter any of the following conditions while operating a forklift, you should stop the vehicle and get immediate assistance:

  • If the forklift emits sparks or flames from the exhaust system
  • If the temperature of any part of the forklift exceeds its normal operating temperature
  • If there are any leaks
  • If you experience any other mechanical breakdown or defects

Long-Term Forklift Truck Maintenance Checks

In addition to conducting daily inspections, you also want to make sure you properly maintain your forklift over time. Some issues can 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 essential maintenance for each of these timeframes.

recommended long-term forklift maintenance checks

Minor Maintenance (250 hours)

Minor forklift maintenance involves the following tasks:

  • Changing the oil and oil filter
  • Cleaning or changing the engine cooling system and air filter
  • Inspecting the drive belt
  • Tightening cylinder head bolts
  • Adjusting engine idle speed and ignition timing
  • Tightening wheel and hub nuts
  • Cleaning and lubricating the mast, frame, and chain
  • Lubricating the drive and steering wheels
  • Replacing the transmission filter
  • Topping up the brake fluid

Intermediate Maintenance (500 hours)

In addition to the tasks listed above, intermediate forklift maintenance involves the following:

  • Changing the fuel filter
  • Adjusting valve clearance
  • Replacing the spark plugs
  • Draining the water separator and cleaning the radiator
  • Replacing the hydraulic filter
  • Testing chain lift tension

Major Maintenance (2,000 hours)

In addition to the minor and intermediate maintenance tasks, major forklift maintenance involves the following:

  • Replacing the coolant
  • Changing the fuel strainer and water separator
  • Replacing the distribution belt and gasket seal
  • Cleaning or replacing the interior ventilation filter
  • Replacing the wheel bearing grease
  • Replacing the transmission filter and oil
  • Changing the hydraulic oil
  • Changing the brake fluid

How to Operate a Forklift Safely

Forklift safety also comes down to how you operate the vehicle. Here are some ways to ensure you’re operating your forklift safely.

how to operate a forklift safety

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

Just because someone can operate one type of forklift doesn’t mean they’re equipped to operate another type. Make sure that the person operating the forklift is trained to operate that specific type of machine. Each type of forklift has its own unique structure, weight limit, traveling speed, and turning radius, and it’s important for the operator to understand how these factors affect the vehicle.

Also, always make sure that you repair and maintain your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and instructions.

3. Keep the Forklifts Clean

In addition to maintaining the engine and parts like the mast, it’s important to keep the forklift clean and free of excess oil and grease.

4. Be Aware of the Work Area

The forklift itself isn’t the only source of potential hazards on your work site. 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

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.

Explore All Forklifts

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