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About Forklift & Material Handling

Forklifts are often used for material handling in warehouses and construction sites. Rather than buy equipment, many companies choose to rent. Renting saves money without having maintenance and repair costs. If you want to rent forklift equipment, you should learn about the different types of forklifts and material handling equipment, how to use them safely, and where you can train as a forklift operator.

What Are Forklifts?

In simple words, forklifts are lift trucks that move large and heavy items. Forklifts handle a range of material by using two protruding forks that slide under a load, lift it, and place it into position. They move large amounts of materials quickly, and the fork’s hydraulic lift easily moves loads to storage spaces up high.

Forklifts come in all sizes and capacities to meet the needs of jobs big and small. They’re categorized as either:

  • industrial — for use in warehouses, factories, and dockyards;
  • or rough terrain — for outdoor use like construction sites.

The full range of forklift equipment includes:

  • Rough terrain forklifts
  • Telehandlers
  • Industrial and warehouse forklifts
  • Sideloaders
  • Pallet jacks
  • Walkie stackers
  • Material lifts

Forklifts are not the same as aerial lifts and other types of lift equipment. Forklifts are not:

  • Scissor lifts or personnel lifts. Forklifts are aerial lifts, also sometimes called mobile scaffolds, used to lift people to reach higher heights.
  • Vehicle lifts used in vehicle service and repair workshops.
  • Dock lifts used to load and unload trucks.

When to Use a Forklift

From moving goods around a warehouse to lifting bales of hay on a farm, forklifts have a variety of uses.

For indoor movement of goods on pallets, different types of lift trucks or pallet trucks do the job:

  • Hand pallet jacks, also called pump trucks, lets a user manually push or pull the pallet jack.
  • Electric power pallet trucks run with a throttle on the handle. Since they’re electric-powered, they make it easier to move heavier loads.
  • Walkie stackers also involve the operator manually walking the truck. However, a ride-on version exists with a platform for the operator to step on and ride the machine. Walkie stackers are different from hand- and electric-powered pallet trucks in that they feature a mast for lifting pallets to higher levels.

Sideloaders pick up loads from the side. Sideloaders move wide or long materials like timber, piping, and sheets.

For small spaces, three-wheel counterbalance machines work best. Their single-drive rear wheel creates tight turning circles that give you excellent maneuverability.

For maximum lift height indoors, material lifts and reach trucks can lift and stack loads at higher heights.

For the outdoors, telehandlers are commonly seen on construction sites. They have a long articulating boom that reaches forward and up, making them extremely flexible in the range of movement and height reaches.

Hazards Associated With Forklifts

Working with large and heavy material handling equipment comes with risks. When you use equipment in warehouses, items could fall from high shelving or fall off machines in forklift tip-overs. Forklifts can collide with pedestrians and other machines and trucks. Injuries can occur from entanglement and electrocutions from contact with objects, wiring, and overhead objects.

The following factors can affect forklift safety when you handle equipment:

Work Practices

  • No training or inadequate training of workers
  • Pressured deadlines leading to hurried and stressed working conditions
  • Assigning the wrong operator to a particular class of machinery
  • Poor maintenance on machines
  • Aging forklifts

Driver Behavior

  • Riding too fast or with the load raised
  • Poor forklift driving skills
  • Poor communication and warnings among workers
  • Improper blocking of wheels on semi-trailers or railway cars
  • Fooling around with stunt driving or erratic driving

Building Design

  • Too much noise, poor lighting, or a building that’s in a general state of disorder
  • Narrow or cluttered aisles that don’t allow machinery movement
  • Obstacles at intersections and doors
  • High volume of traffic in a work area
  • Poor signage and marking of walkways and forklift areas
  • Poor condition of loading docks

Load Characteristics

  • Loads that are poorly stacked
  • Worn pallets
  • Loads that are too heavy for the machine
  • Loads stacked too high and blocked the operator’s line of sight

Mechanical Problems

  • Faulty brakes, clutch, transmission, or shift linkage
  • Faulty steering
  • Malfunction of mast assembly
  • Leaks in the hydraulic system
  • Safety features not working

Forklift Design

  • Obstructions or masts that block the driver’s view
  • Poor layout of controls and displays
  • No proper tools, attachments, and accessories on warehouse equipment

Forklift Safety Precautions

Always take forklift safety seriously. Carelessness and not enough concentration lead to accidents and deaths. Follow the forklift safety precautions below for a safe work environment when using warehouse equipment:

  • Only trained and licensed operators should run forklifts.
  • Make sure the forklift is on a stable and even surface before you lift a load.
  • Never corner or turn at high speed with a raised load. You could cause a tip-over accident.
  • Adhere to the weight and load rules of the particular machine and don’t overload it.
  • An internal combustion engine that runs on gasolinediesel, or propane fuel powers most industrial forklifts or a hydraulic lift, so be aware of the hazards of using fuel. Use caution when refueling and make sure a fire extinguisher is nearby.
  • When operating rough-terrain forklifts, stick to the speed limit. Although these machines are capable of roughing it, driving too fast can result in a turnover, leading to both the driver and workers nearby being seriously injured.
  • Buckling your seatbelt is a must every time you move a load.
  • Don’t give your coworkers a ride on a forklift that isn’t made for passengers. Never use it as a personnel lift.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings related to coworkers, obstacles, the height of the load, the mast, and overhead guard when you use a lift truck.
  • Only drive your forklift in proper areas and follow the work site rules.
  • Slow down and sound the forklift horn at intersections, corners, or places that block your vision.
  • Employees moving hazardous chemicals must use extreme caution and make sure that all containers are labeled.

For more information on forklift safety, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.

Training for Forklift Operators

Since operating forklifts is dangerous, OSHA requires employers to train and certify workers in the correct and safe operation of a wide range of forklifts. BigRentz provides the necessary OSHA-compliant training through the Genie Lift Pro Online Operator Training Courses.

Forklift Training Covers:

  1. Theory — instruction by book, lecture, video, and software. You can do this training online.
  2. Practical Training — hands-on instruction, live demonstrations, and practice exercises on the forklift under a trainer’s watch.
  3. Evaluation — operators do a performance evaluation every three years.

Note that:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for forklift driver positions.
  • If your job has you handling toxic chemicals, you’ll need to complete more training.
  • Different types of forklifts require specific training. For example, if you work with Class 5 machines, the most commonly used forklifts in the general industry, you’re not allowed to run rough-terrain trucks, which fall into Class 7, without more training.

Once fully trained, a forklift operator can get a good salary. Since the job of a forklift operator falls into the class of hazardous occupations, the pay rate for forklift operators is between $15 to $20 per hour.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I rent a forklift?

For forklift rental, contact BigRentz to choose the right forklift for your job. Safety is important to us. Only trained operators should use machinery.

What kinds of forklifts can I rent from BigRentz?

  • Cushion tire forklifts
  • Pneumatic tire forklifts
  • Warehouse forklifts
  • Reach trucks
  • Rough-terrain trucks
  • Telehandlers

For how long can I rent a forklift?

  • Daily, up to eight hours
  • Weekly, up to five days
  • Monthly, up to four weeks or 20 days

What should I look for in a forklift?

Think about the nature of your job and choose a forklift that factors in:

  • Load weight and size
  • Forklift height
  • Indoor or outdoor abilities (Electric cushion tire machines are for indoors only, while gasoline and diesel machines with pneumatic tires can work both indoors and outdoors.)
  • Features and attachments. Do you want certain safety features, comfortable, adjustable seats, or extra features such as a side shift and mast tilt?
  • The machine’s condition and how often it gets serviced.

Who offers forklift training?

  • Employers with in-house training programs
  • Companies that sell or rent material handle equipment
  • Independent qualified training organizations and consultants

How does OSHA categorize forklifts?

OSHA classifies forklifts as powered industrial trucks (PITs). Any mobile power-propelled truck used to carry, push, pull, lift, or stack material is a PIT. These pieces include electric motor riders, internal combustion engine trucks, and rough-terrain forklift trucks. Aerial lifts, like scissor lifts and earth-moving equipment, changed to include forks, are not powered industrial trucks.

Forklifts have become an important piece of warehouse equipment and part of manufacturing and construction operations. But newly manufactured forklifts & material handling equipment can be expensive to buy. A forklift rental is often the more cost-effective solution. BigRentz is a full-service equipment rental network with more than 7,500 rental yards across the United States and Canada. Rent one of our affordable forklifts. We’ll help you get your job done quickly and within budget.


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