Brrr! Is Your Forklift Fleet Ready for Cold Weather?
Frost is in the air and the days are short—yes, winter has arrived in NEPA. Just as lift trucks need extra care for hot weather, precautions for cold-weather months are equally important. Low temps can severely impact a forklifts’ ability to perform to its best capacity. Issues like tubing leaks, dead batteries, and cracked radiators can be the result of not having your forklift cold-weather ready.
A good service and maintenance routine are essential for both indoor and outdoor operations. Year-round planned maintenance programs are suggested to keep your machines running at peak performance. But if you have a reactive approach to maintenance or do it in-house, here are some things to do:
- Continuously monitor fuel levels and top off when necessary. If your fuel tank is low, condensation can form, causing the machine to sputter or stop completely.
- For electric forklifts, keep the batteries fully charged. Cold temperatures affect the battery’s electrolyte, causing it to thicken and not being able to achieve the chemical reaction needed to power sufficiently. 
- Use properly rated oils and lubricants. Use of winter-weight oils with corresponding lowest temperature is recommended.
- Check the freezing point of your antifreeze to be sure it’s not too low.
- Make sure OSHA-required inspections  are performed and that your operators report any discrepancy on their daily checklists.
Other steps for safe operation include:
- If your forklift doesn’t have a cab, invest in a forklift cover. Choose a cover with ribs and gutters to dispel water.
- For traction and stability, be sure the tires are designed for winter use. Pneumatic tires perform better than solid tires in bad conditions. Or you can use tires with chains or studs.
- Add a weight block to the forklift for better traction.
- Allow the forklift to warm up. Especially important for the hydraulics system.
- Slow down. Only go as fast as conditions will safely allow.
- Ensure continuous visibility. Stop working if conditions deteriorate (limited visibility, slippery surfaces, etc.)
- For forklifts with internal combustion engines be especially careful in cold weather. Doors and windows which are normally open may be closed, and exhaust and other gases may concentrate.
Last but not least, be sure your operators are prepared for working in cold temperatures. Anyone working in a frigid environment may be at risk of cold stress.  It’s important that they are wearing protective winter gear. Dressing in warm layers is vital along with gloves and hats and even wind-proof clothing. Outerwear should include highly visible colors, or they should wear a safety vest over the top. Also, make sure your operators take their breaks. In exteme weather conditions they need to concentrate more than usual, creating additional mental strain. Enforcing breaks so they can rest will help your operators remain in top performance mode over the long-haul.
In Northeastern Pennsylvania, contact Action Lift for all your material-handling needs. We can help ensure that your forklifts perform at their peak in the cold weather and beyond.