Prepare Your Forklift for Winter

Prepare Your Forklift for Winter

What can you and your operators do to optimize your forklift before and during the winter season? We know there is a lot to be done before winter hits and the warehouse managers and forklift operators need to be prepared. Managers, we want to help you keep your Operators safe, prepare you to stock up, and to get a general maintenance to prepare your forklift for winter. Operators, it’s important to know what to be prepare for when winter comes.

Managers prepare for winter

Get a tune-up / general maintenance

Getting your fleet tuned-up prior to winter, will ensure the forklift is ready to tackle the tasks during winter. Double check to make sure the scheduled service visits and inspections are up-to-date for your fleet. If they are not up-to-date it can make things dangerous for the operator to operate it. Make sure to get a battery and charger maintenance as well this will ensure the battery and charger are working properly.

Serious problems can occur. Expenses can add up, up to thousands of dollars, cracked engine block, oil coagulation, and broken hydraulic pump shafts. The money you spend on getting your forklift maintenance for winter is worth more, when compared to the cost of a cracked engine block. If there are any issues, they can be caught before anything gets worse when getting a general maintenance and a battery and charger maintenance.

Keep employees safe

First of all, make sure all your operators are forklift safety trained, regardless of the season. This will help your employees be efficient on the job and they won’t be as much of a liability to the company. Another way to ensure safety is to provide your forklift drivers with winter clothing like waterproof jackets, boots and gloves. Not only will this ensure that your driver won’t get sick, but it will help keep the driver focused, alert, and able to quickly react if need be. If that’s not in the budget to buy these items then refresh your operators about dressing warm.

Stock up on fleet supplies

You don’t know what the winter weather will bring you, so it’s best to be prepared for the worst. Your supply chain could shut down for a few days and that could halt your business. So, stock up on fuel and other necessities in case this happens. If your using winter forklift attachments, be sure that forklift snow plows, scoops, salt spreaders/sanders and other attachments are readily accessible. If operating outside consider buying new tires or tire chains for the forklift for better traction.

Warning: Batteries may discharge more quickly in extra-cold temperatures. Managers may have to prepare with additional batteries. Older forklifts might be using halogen lights, consider switching to LEDs. LED lasts longer, are brighter, and isn’t affected by temperature or vibrations during operation. Also consider upgrading any forklifts you have that don’t have enclosed cabs for your drivers that use the forklift outside. The cabs are completely enclosed with heaters, windshields, wipers, covers, etc. that help keep the cold out and the operator warm.  Cabs typically have a couple week lead time to build, so don’t wait until the cold weather hits, get your orders in now.

Managers if you do these things you will be better prepare your forklift for winter, but did you also know your operators needed to prepare too? There are additional tasks operators should do before, during and after their shift, and before winter comes.

Operators prepare for winter

Preparing for winter

Operators ensure your wearing warm clothing when working outside. Especially, wear gloves to prevent numb fingers. When working inside and outside dress in layers to transition comfortably in both applications. Winter weather not only makes you cold and have the dangers of frost bite, it can also delay your reactions and timing.

What operators should do:

 Before the Shift

Before the Shift, inspect the entire forklift, then record and report any issues pre-operation. Adjust driving habits to current weather conditions, so check outside and see what it’s like. Check all winter items, be sure that any and all winter safety items that are needed are attached and working. Remember it gets get darker earlier in winter and the weather conditions can and will affect the operator. Don’t get caught without proper lighting on your forklifts when the sun goes down, lighting provides the operator optimal visibility.

Avoid cold starts on the forklift, properly warm up before operating. This is important for both the engine and the hydraulics. Cold starts increase fuel consumption and increase wear and tear. Warm up the forklift, let the forklift idle for a few minutes with no load, this will protect any unnecessary damage to the engine and hydraulic system. If you operate the forklift with a cold engine you can cause a variety of issues related with combustion and transmission. This will take longer than usual in the winter as you’re starting from lower temperatures. So be patient when warming the forklift.

 During the Shift

Many drivers are skilled with operating the forklift and they might underestimate the potential impact of icy, wet or other dangerous conditions. During the Shift, slow down and drive carefully, reduce speeds in challenging conditions. Failing to reduce speeds can result in breaking, skids, and increased chances for an accident. Take all reasonable steps to maintain proper visibility by preventing the accumulation of snow on and around the forklift and forklift path. Any area that gets forklift traffic: the loading areas, ramps, outdoor corridors, etc. should be cleared of ice, sludge and snow. Remember to stop working if conditions become unsafe (i.e., slippery driving conditions, limited visibility, etc.). Keep trafficked areas clear, remove snow, ice, other hazards that could create an unsafe working condition. Also consider spreading grit to increase traction on outdoor forklift paths.

Avoid short run times, engines tend to run a richer fuel mixture during the first 20 minutes of operation.  During this time, it is possible for water vapor to accumulate in the engine oil and exhaust system as temperatures are insufficient to cause evaporation.

Working in winter can make the body generate extra energy to combat the cold making the operator more fatigued. Take a break every once in a while. The operators should pay attention to the signs that their focus or energy is draining. If this occurs eat some carbs or calories to refuel.

After the Shift  

After the shift clean the forklift. Removing all the snow, salt, dirt grit and debris from the forklift. Doing this after every shift will help to prevent issues from rust and corrosion later on. Make sure to plug in the battery if it is needing charged. This will ensure the following shift will have a functional forklift. Park the unit in a warm and dry place in between use to avoid the issues related to ice formation.

Click here for our flyer for our winter specials. If you want to learn more contact us or call us at (800) 638-1230 for more information on our winter specials that will help prepare your forklift for winter. Stay tuned for our next article next month. Do you have a topic for an article? Comment down below.