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The winter months are typically very busy times for forklift operators. Warehouses bustle with activity as goods are continually loaded and unloaded onto delivery trucks and storage racks to fulfil orders in time for mid-winter sales. 

On the other hand, it is a known fact that working during the winter can present a series of risks. Due to the obvious effects of cold temperatures on a person’s health, forklift drivers are more likely to face health issues while on the job. Additionally, the cold can have a negative impact on the components in a lift truck, which can lead to the truck’s malfunctioning. All of these things can result in accidents that can lead to injuries or even fatalities.

As an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure that your forklift operators can continue to perform their jobs in a safe manner, even during the winter months. For this reason, it is necessary to put in place appropriate safety standards, procedures, and rules for forklifts during winter.

The best way to keep everyone at your workplace up-to-date with safety awareness and excellent forklift operation abilities is to sign up for an OSH forklift training.

What is cold stress?

Forklift operators, particularly those required to perform outdoor jobs, stay at risk due to the complications of working during the winter weather. Drivers should be aware of the following risks at all times for their own well-being and safety:

  • Unexpected snowfall or rain
  • Wet or slick surfaces
  • Strong, freezing winds
  • Poor visibility, especially in the evening and at night

During the winter months, forklift operators with valid OSH forklift training who work near the loading dock or outside the logistics facility are often exposed to the bitterly cold air. As a result, they are at an increased risk of cold stress, a condition in which the body’s ability to maintain heat is compromised. When something like this takes place, the temperature of the skin and the rest of the body will drop noticeably.

Untreated cold stress can cause a number of serious illnesses and injuries that can have long-term effects on the body, such as hypothermia, frostbite, chilblains, cold shock and more.

What can forklift drivers do to prevent accidents in the colder season?

Planning and executing a strategy to keep your forklift drivers warm in frigid weather is critical to their safety. Additionally, all hydraulic lifts must be equipped to withstand the cold and prevent malfunctions or breakdowns that could put their operators in danger.

to  keep your employees warm and safe this winter, follow these helpful forklift safety guidelines:

1. Organise safety training for forklifts during the winter

In order to ensure the safety of forklift operators, proper OSH forklift training must be given to all drivers. This will allow them to have a wider understanding and be better equipped to deal with low-temperature working conditions and avoid winter-related accidents. 

Additionally, the OSH forklift training will provide the operators with the knowledge and skills necessary to deal with illnesses and injuries caused by exposure to cold temperatures.

You might want to consider providing your forklift operators with information on the following winter safety topics:

  • A winter safety awareness campaign involving forklifts.
  • Identifying the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and administering the proper first aid measures.
  • A healthy level of physical conditioning.
  • Invest in the proper winter gear and clothing.
  • Having an awareness of the environmental hazards that are present in the workplace.
  • Company Winter Safety protocols.

2. Ensure that your drivers have appropriate winter-safety equipment

As part of your company’s forklift operator safety checklist, drivers must wear appropriate winter gear to protect themselves from strong winds and rain, especially if they are assigned to outdoor tasks.

The following safety equipment can be provided to operators as and when required:

Winter safety gloves and boots with insulation

A pair of insulated winter gloves or boots can help keep your operator’s hands and feet warm while protecting them from harsh weather conditions.

Winter goggles

These fog-resistant goggles protect the driver’s eyes from the cold winds, water droplets, and snow.

Insulated workwear for the colder months

The jacket and pants are designed to work together to provide full-body protection against adverse weather conditions, such as rain and wind. Insulation keeps your forklift operators warm and dry in the cold weather.

Forklift operators can greatly benefit from these safety and utility features when purchasing their equipment:

  • Reflective tape and bright colours for increased visibility
  • Pockets for storing items
  • Hard Hat Liners

Hard Hats shield the wearer from impacts and falling debris, but they do little to keep them warm. Your forklift drivers need winter liners to keep their heads warm in the cold.

3. Keeping your forklifts winter-ready

The cold weather might have a negative impact on the machine components, which can lead to breakdowns and other problems with the system. As a result of these circumstances, an operator’s life can be at risk due to the fact that their machines are transporting heavy loads while working in an environment exposed to falling debris and collisions.

Forklifts need to be serviced and fully equipped to handle the rigours of winter work in order to cut down on the number of unanticipated breakdowns. Operators should perform these safety checks prior to the onset of winter:

  • Forklift safety systems, in particular, should be thoroughly inspected.
  • Hydraulic lifts should be given a thorough tune-up.
  • Items should be inspected for repair and replacement.
  • A valid OSH forklift training regiment should be completed.

Besides safety checks, operators should keep an eye on the following areas and perform necessary maintenance:

The battery

The extreme cold can be very damaging to batteries, causing them to lose their charge much more quickly than they would normally. It is necessary to perform routine load tests on the battery using a load tester. This ensures that it is functioning at a level close to its maximum strength.

The cooling system

In sub-zero temperatures, the water in the engine’s cooling system has a high propensity to freeze, which typically results in engine failure. Adding antifreeze to the coolant lines is highly recommended to avoid this.

The tires

Ask our drivers to perform a routine inspection of the tyre pressures in your fleet. Because cold temperatures often cause a drop in PSI, you must inflate your tyres to the optimal pressure levels as soon as possible.

In addition, it is essential to equip the forklift’s tyres with specialised forklift tyre chains to provide additional traction when operating on surfaces covered in snow.

The lights

During nighttime operations, a forklift must be equipped with lights that are operational to maintain adequate visibility. Check that each of the machine’s lights is operational before using it.

In addition, if the lights on your lift truck are still halogen, you should switch them over to LED ones as soon as possible. These are more durable and will not break down when exposed to freezing temperatures.

The hydraulics

Extremely low temperatures in the winter can cause hydraulics and other moving parts to become rigid and even freeze. To avoid this, make it a habit to check that they are adequately lubricated.

4. Before beginning any operations, let the forklifts warm-up

Before using a forklift, operators should set aside a few extra minutes to ensure that the engine and hydraulics have had sufficient time to warm up sufficiently. Because of this, the oil will be able to circulate, which will prevent problems related to combustion and transmission from occurring.

5. Remove the snow and ice from work areas

The majority of accidents that occur during the winter are typically the result of slips and trips on icy or snow-covered surfaces. In order to lessen the possibility that something like this will take effect, potentially dangerous areas need to be correctly identified, and their problems need to be resolved as quickly as humanly possible. Resolutions include:

  • Clearing away any snow, ice, or other potential hazards from entrances, including parking lots, pedestrian walkways, sloped areas, and any other locations that see significant foot traffic.
  • Sprinkling rock salt or another type of de-icer over icy areas.
  • Alerting pedestrians about potentially hazardous areas by putting up temporary signs, cones, barricades, and floor stands.

Unless appropriate safety measures are taken, driving a forklift during winter poses a potential risk to the operator. If you pay attention to the advice given in this blog post, you’ll be able to reduce the chances of your drivers sustaining an injury while they’re on the job.

We also recommend getting an OSH forklift training from professional institutes that will help drivers stay prepared under varying weather conditions. Get in touch with us if you want to know more about our training.