Yeah mate, it’s a two- tonner!

Todd Brennan -
Safety First
- 27 Sep 2007 ( #329 )
3 min read
Todd Brennan is the founder and owner of Forkpro Australia. A former chairman of the Australian Industrial Truck Engineering Committee, Brennan aims to "fill the forklift safety gap" with Forkpro's forklift training courses. Together with his team, he has assisted tertiary institutions, including the Melbourne-based Monash University Accident Research Centre's forklift safety project.
There is only one thing more alarming than deliberately overloading a forklift and that is not knowing whether it is overloaded.

The inability of a large percentage of forklift operators to understand the load capacity plate of their forklift continues to be a conundrum that begs for a good solution. I wish I had $10 for every time I have been told "yeah, it's a two-tonner", only upon further investigation to find the forklift is actually rated in some cases barely 25% of that. Anecdotally, there are even fewer supervisors who could explain the load capacity accurately, let alone set their charges on the right track.

So why the confusion? Firstly, it is often not conveyed properly to the user and secondly, because of the relative complexity of ratings applied to modern forklifts, especially warehouse equipment. Now, this has been a topic of discussion within the Forkliftaction.com forums and if you look back to the various opinions expressed, there is no wonder the poor old end-user is confused.

OK, so the 2.5 tonner is not 2.5 tonne. How can that be? Three simple reasons:
  1. In Australia, trucks are based on 600mm load centre as a standard.
  2. Almost all new trucks are fitted with some type of load handling attachment.
  3. Forklift basic capacity is determined with a low lift height mast which is rarely used.
The combination of the above all leads to the residual capacity shown on the forklift's load capacity plate. "Oh, but that's fine. It can lift more down low," I have heard on many occasions. WRONG AGAIN! What's on the plate is the maximum the forklift can lift to the specified lift height and specified load centre distance. If the forklift has a rating at the full lift height, no more weight can legally be lifted unless it carries what is called an intermediate load capacity rating as well. These intermediate ratings show the capacity at one or more heights between the ground and full lift height. So you may have ratings, for example, at 4,000mm, 5,000mm and 6,000mm.

Of course, the higher the height, the lower the rating - usually.

Now add the fact that multiple load centre distances may also be given and the modern forklift may carry three, six, nine or even more rated capacities. Plus, on a counterbalance, they also must have the mast forward tilt capacities.

Confusing? Absolutely! Well, maybe. It all depends on how well trained you are.

Australian Standard AS2359 Part 1 is currently under review and will be out for public comment in the future. As members of this committee, my colleagues and I have committed to try to develop a forklift load capacity plate that will provide the 'Capacity-at-a-glance'. In essence, the proposal is not to delete the multiple alternative capacities but have one clear capacity that will catch the operator's eye and that cannot be misunderstood as anything but the forklift's lift capacity. Of course, the object is that this be the lowest capacity out of the set. Should there be any confusion, the eye is drawn to the lowest number and thus the least likely to cause stability problems.

As it stands now, the first number that could be seen is the highest capacity and, thus, if lift height restrictions are not observed, this could put the truck into dangerous waters.

The Monash Accident Research Centre study into forklift safety - and the regulators - have been critical of the model code designations used commonly on forklifts. i.e. FG25 or similar as it is said to represent the nominal capacity of the forklift and, as I have stated above, this may be nowhere near the case. In the writer's experience, this is all too often the case.

At the end of the day, if a forklift operator cannot understand the load capacity plate, they cannot operate the forklift safely. The same can be said for the supervisors. Yes, the plates can be confusing at first look; however, with the right explanation, they are simply a matrix of figures with relatively straight-forward indicators.

Abiding by the capacities of the load capacity plate does not guarantee the forklift stability. However, inadvertent overloading is a clear contributor to forklift accidents. Getting the right information is a serious business.
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