It is estimated that up to 100,000 forklift trucks operate outdoors in the UK alone, loading and unloading lorries and transporting goods. Affected by the snow, ice and wet weather, how can businesses prepare themselves to ensure that the forklifts, critical to their supply chain, run smoothly, reliably and safely? Ian Roberts provides 10 top tips.
1) Correct specification of trucks
Ensure that all forklifts are specified correctly, for example, with the right tyres, and are properly serviced to operate in cold, wet weather. Getting this wrong could lead to downtime which can adversely affect a company's output.
2) Driver checks and regular servicing
Health and safety is a high priority for materials handling operations and forklifts require special attention in extreme weather conditions to ensure they perform correctly and safely. The condition of forklift tyres is of particular importance in wet or icy conditions as they affect traction and stability of the truck and load. Daily checks and regular servicing of vital components such as batteries, hydraulics and electrical systems become even more important.
3) Training and housekeeping
Ice or rain may create slippery surfaces, either outdoors or on loading bays for example, so training drivers to be more cautious with their speed and supervising them where necessary helps to reduce a number of safety risks. Good housekeeping also plays an essential role in helping to prevent slips and trips, as well as preventing vehicle downtime. For example, if a vehicle is required to operate in a muddy environment around debris such as leaves or oil, it is important to regularly clean the equipment to prevent parts becoming blocked or clogged, which can lead to malfunction. Gritting yard areas in the snow and freezing conditions will also help to maintain traction.
4) Visibility in dark conditions
In the winter months, daylight and visibility are reduced for both drivers and pedestrians, so, in conditions of poor visibility, forklifts must be fitted with suitable lighting to enable them to work safely outdoors.
5) Staff comfort
Such miserable conditions can also have an effect on morale and productivity, so it is vital to provide comfortable working conditions for the entire shift. Forklifts can be modified to incorporate cabs or covers, windscreen wipers and heaters. Companies should provide staff with winter clothing such as waterproof jackets, body warmers and gloves. These extra precautions can raise staff spirits, helping to reduce absenteeism and ensure operational demands are met efficiently.
6) Truck protection
Engines need protection from cold weather and the correct oils and lubricants ensure they run smoothly and efficiently.
7) Fast and reliable support
Always ensure that there is a reliable, experienced service provider looking after the fleet, who can respond effectively in case of breakdown.
8) Fuel supply
Check the security and stock level of the fuel supply in case supply is restricted due to snow.
9) Short-term rental
Check that the supplier has access to short-term hire equipment for use in the event that a breakdown cannot be resolved within an acceptable time scale.
Snow ploughs, scoops, salt spreaders and a wide range of other useful attachments can be fitted to forklifts to help companies through the winter months.
- Ian Roberts is national service manager for Barloworld Handling and has many years experience in keeping materials handling operations running during the winter months, to ensure the supply chain continues to run smoothly. Barloworld maintains nearly 25,000 lift trucks in all types of UK industries.