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Four Tips To Operate Forklifts In Challenging Winter Conditions

Truck moving stacks of wood planks in a lumberyard in winter
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Driving a forklift in the snow or ice seems intimidating. Whether it’s flurries or a full-scale blizzard, following these practices will prevent the issues that arise with winter weather. Driving outdoors poses many challenges, but there are practices forklift operators can use to drive safer in these conditions.

1. Stay Alert

Forklift operators should always keep their eyes focused in front of them. Continually scan the area of operation, looking for potential hazards.  In outdoor scenarios, it is important to have a heightened sense of awareness, especially with an icy or snowy surface.

Keep your hands on the wheel at all times. Traction is decreased in snowy conditions, which can result in a wide range of issues.

2. Parts Check

The best practices for outdoor forklift operations start with assuring the forklift is ready for the most extreme weather. In an internal combustion powered forklift,  the vital components most affected by cold, wet weather are batteries,  hydraulics, electrical systems, and engines. It is crucial to execute a check of all equipment and components prior to operation.

Cold weather forklift. winter.
Poorly inflated tires can be hazardous.

Poorly inflated tires and a lack of pertinent fluids prior to use can be especially hazardous. First, check the pressure on all tires with an appropriate tire gauge. Overinflated tires are more susceptible to explosion and result in a vehicle fire.

Underinflated tires run the risk of going flat which can be very dangerous in icy conditions. In addition, check antifreeze and oil to make sure they are at proper levels. This practice prevents the engine from freezing in winter settings.

3. Reducing Speeds

Many operators may feel rushed or encouraged to speed up a task to make up for lost time due to snowfall or sleet, or because it’s cold and they want to get back inside. Drivers must reduce speed to allow for appropriate maneuvering with regard to black ice, snow, and slippery surfaces.

Failing to do so can result in sudden breaking, skids and increase the chances for an accident. Remember that on its best day, a forklift isn’t as easy to handle as a car, and handles even worse on slippery surfaces.

forklifts must reduce speed in snow and ice
Drivers must reduce speed to allow for appropriate maneuvering with regard to black ice, snow, and slippery surfaces.

4. Warm The Forklift

Before you leave for work in the morning, it is advised to allow the car to warm up on those especially cold days. The same rule of thumb applies to forklifts. Operating a forklift with a cold engine can cause a wide range of combustion and transmission related issues. Give your forklift time to warm up and idle before use on those extremely frigid days.

Final Thoughts

Operating a forklift in less than ideal conditions, whether inside or outside, is something that needs to be done with tremendous care and safety in mind. In winter conditions, all those considerations need to be heightened. Remember to use your best judgment when operating in snowy or freezing conditions and always err on the side of caution.