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Forklift Operation: Outdoor Hazards to Look Out for Over Winter

Driving a forklift is difficult at the best of times, but as the winter draws closer, so do the treacherous weather conditions. With the colder months set to bring about snow, ice, wind and frost, it’s never been more important to be aware of the hazards that they pose and how you can stay as safe as possible, while protecting other employees, when you get behind the wheel of your forklift.

With many businesses across a number of sectors relying heavily on material handling equipment, it can be a heavy blow when they’re out of commission or if they simply cannot be used due to the harsh weather. If you have highly-skilled staff on hand to operate the forklifts in wintry conditions, it can help to move operations along, but you may see a decrease in productivity levels as a result.

As such, Charnwood Lift Trucks are on hand to ensure that the safety of forklift operators and those on the ground are kept safe at all times, whilst also making sure that your business operations still run as smoothly and as efficiently as possible in the process.

What are the hazards to look out for in winter?

The winter brings with it an onslaught of risks and hazards to everyone every single year. Whether you’re opting to travel on foot or by car, you’re likely to come across a situation that could cause you, or someone else, harm if it’s approached in the wrong way. This is very much the same for forklift operators nationwide at this time of year, so what hazards should you look out for and how can you navigate them safely?
Forklift in the cold weather

The winter hazards you should look out for

Freezing Temperatures

Cold temperatures can significantly lower the efficiency of your forklift, particularly with an electric vehicle. Freezing temperatures could end up thickening the battery’s electrolyte which could cause the forklift to lose much-needed power. Not only will this mean an electric forklift will struggle to operate, but it could end up reducing the lifespan of the battery quicker than expected.

Even petrol and diesel forklifts aren’t exempt from the bitter cold temperatures. It could mean that your forklift will need to be continuously pumped with fuel in order to stay operational, something which could prove to be very costly. As well as this, the freezing conditions could also cause the oil to thicken – a danger with any forklift you own, whether electric or otherwise.

Hydraulic forklift features will also be affected, resulting in the lowering of amps, thus slowing down their functionality overall.

The best way to combat these issues is to:

  • Store the forklifts in a dry area and cover them with tarpaulin, if you have the space to do so
  • If you lack the storage space, then simply cover the forklifts you own with heavy-duty material in order to keep it protected from cold winds, ice and frost
  • Wipe down the machines before you cover them or put them into storage, ensuring excessive amounts of water are removed so as to prevent it from freezing on or around the forklift (this will also protect its bodywork)

Snow & Ice

Freezing temperatures often result in snow, ice and frost. When these fall, settle or form on the ground, surfaces will subsequently become more difficult to safely navigate and so a considerable amount of care should be taken in order to prevent causing harm to yourself or others. One way of doing this is to ensure that your forklift has been fitted with pneumatic tyres as opposed to the conventional alternatives that are used during the rest of the year.

You could also add snow chains to the tyres to allow for extra grip and traction, therefore mitigating the risk of slipping or skidding. Having winter tyres or chains fitted to the vehicle’s wheels could also help to reduce brake times, just in case you need to come to a sudden stop at any point throughout the operation.

Low Visibility

During the winter months, your ability to see is drastically affected, often meaning that extra precautions will have to be taken when operating a forklift. There are many ways in which winter conditions can minimise the visibility you have, including:
  • Limited daylight hours
  • Cloudy, darker days overall
  • A high likelihood of fog
  • Snow flurries
  • Ice residue left on forklift windscreens
  • The snow reflecting light (which could lead to snow blindness)

What are driving conditions like during the winter?

Operating a forklift in cold, wintry weather conditions is often very dangerous, and so those who operate the forklifts must be highly-skilled and fully-trained to deal with, and drive the forklift in, deteriorating weather. As such, they’ll be able to recognise when a situation needs to be handled safely and responsibly in order to mitigate injury to themselves or others, and we’ll be sharing exactly how they do it with a few winter safety tips.

Winter safety tips for outdoor forklift operators

Stay alert when driving a forklift in wintry conditions. You should also be conscious of your surroundings whilst also paying attention to the way in which your current tyres are performing on snow or ice. Judge whether chains need to be added or if your existing tyres need to be replaced for winter ones.

Slow down when operating a forklift, particularly if it’s travelling over icy or snowy ground. You’ll need the braking distance should you need to suddenly stop, all without harming yourself or other people. It’s also important that the load you’re carrying remains intact to avoid unnecessary financial losses.

Warm up the equipment first, much like you would before getting in your car. By gradually heating up the vehicle before you use it, you’ll conserve fuel and battery life, therefore elongating the lifespan of your forklift no matter what the weather decides to do.

How Charnwood Lift Trucks can help you

Charnwood Lift Trucks endeavour to provide our customers with high-quality, reliable material handling equipment, ensuring that your employees, whether they operate the machinery or work on the warehouse floor, are kept safe at all times. With our trusted, high-calibre range of used forklifts, used reach trucks, pallet trucks and more, you’ll be able to keep your business operations running smoothly this winter.

For more information about the new equipment and used equipment we have available to rent or buy or if you wish to enquire about our extensive range of alternative material handling equipment, get in touch with a member of our friendly, knowledgeable team today – we operate throughout Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Lincoln and the surrounding areas.

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