It goes without saying that equipment maintenance should be a top priority anywhere forklifts or lift trucks are in operation. Prioritizing forklift maintenance is a great way to reduce workplace injuries and improve profitability as there is a strong correlation between productivity, safety and the existence of a proper maintenance program. This is because well-maintained units operate more efficiently, suffer from less downtime and are unlikely to experience dangerous equipment failures. So, to help you get the most out of your equipment, we've prepared a comprehensive forklift maintenance guide:
The Law - Forklift Maintenance:
The guidelines and regulations surrounding forklift maintenance in Ontario are established by a number of pieces of legislation and enforced by regulatory bodies including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (also known as OHSA), the Canadian Standards Association, and the Ontario's Ministry of Labour (also known as the MOL). Together, these define the type and frequency of maintenance tasks to be performed, who is able to perform these tasks and what an employer's responsibilities are with respect to each. A failure to comply with the regulations imposed by either the OHSA or MOL may result in thousands of dollars in fines, work stoppage and even jail time, so having a firm understanding of the is the first step in understanding and implementing your forklift maintenance and upkeep program. Since there are too many regulations and guidelines to identify and explain in a single blog post, we've laid out the most important clauses and sections for you to consider below:
- Annual forklift inspections - according to Section 51(1)(b) of Regulation 851 all lifting devices my "be thoroughly examined by a competent person... as often as necessary but not less frequently than recommended by its manufacturer and, in any case, at least once per year." Click here for more information on the legal considerations surround annual inspections.
- Pre-operation inspections - as specified in CSA B335-04 Section 6.8, a lift truck must be inspected before the beginning of each shift and a record of the forklift inspection must be kept on file.
- Mechanic competency - As stated within Section 51(1)(b), there are a number of specifications that must be met for an individual to qualify as a "competent" forklift mechanic. Nominally gained as a result of 5+ years of experience servicing forklifts and lift trucks, a competent mechanic is defined as follows:
- Knowledge of the personal safety practices as they relate to lift truck inspections;
- Familiarity of industry terminology;
- Ability to comprehend user, maintenance and parts manuals;
- Knowledge of the purpose and function of all components, devices and accessories commonly found in lift trucks; and
- Working knowledge of electronic controls, mechanical and pneumatic principles as they relate to lift trucks and forklifts.
- Employer responsibilities - according to OHSA clause 25(1)(b), it is an employer's responsibility to "ensure that equipment is maintained in good condition" and to ensure the safety of their employees. As part of these responsibilities, it's up to employers to ensure that their employees are properly trained in conducting safety inspections, maintain a proper record of these inspections and keep unsafe equipment out of operation.
Daily Pre-Operation Inspections:
Daily pre-operation inspections are required by law. However, beyond employee safety and OHSA compliance, employers also benefit from a reduction in maintenance costs as a result of pre-operation forklift inspections. Similar to a planned maintenance agreement, circle checks can decrease forklift maintenance costs by hundreds to thousands of dollars per year by guiding predictive maintenance efforts. By identifying and addressing maintenance issues before they progress into more substantial issues, daily lift truck inspections help to limit downtime, improve truck performance and result in easier, less expensive repairs.
Fortunately, these pre-operation inspections only take about 5 minutes to perform. What you'll find below is a quick overview of the components of a pre-operation inspection:
- Overall condition of the forklift - make sure there is no obvious damage or malfunctions;
- Overhead guard – check for any damage or obstructions;
- Fire extinguisher – must be present, charged and ready for operation;
- Fluid levels – ensure there are adequate levels on essential fluids such as the hydraulic oil, engine oil, fuel, coolant, water, etc.;
- Fluid leaks – make sure there are no readily apparent leaks or fluid spills;
- Mast and carriage – ensure that the mast, rollers, backrest, carriage and forks are in good working order and free of any signs of damage;
- Wheels and tires – inspect wheels for wear, damage and tire pressure;
- Battery – check for loose/frayed wires and connections;
- Propane tank (if applicable) – inspect the tank and its connections to make sure all connections are tight and that the hose is in good condition;
- Signage and stickers – make sure all relevant safety signage and stickers are present, clearly visible and legible;
- Instrumentation and controls – make sure your instruments (i.e., gauges) and controls (steering wheel, levers, etc.) are in good working order;
- Safety devices – ensure the vehicle's seat belt or restraining device, lights (operating and strobe) and horn are in good working condition; and,
- Brakes – test the brakes to ensure they are responsive and operational.
After completing the pre-operation inspection, a written record should be kept of the check and its findings. Make sure any and all concerns are reported to the operator's supervisor or maintenance staff. If a serious issue is found, the forklift must be shut down until it is inspected by a competent mechanic and cleared for operation.
Preventative Maintenance Programs:
The next step in improving productivity and safety within your facility via forklift maintenance is establishing a preventative maintenance program. Unlike corrective maintenance, where maintenance work is done to identify, diagnose and address mechanical issues once they arise, preventative maintenance programs look to identify and address potential issues before they become a problem while extending the longevity of parts and equipment with regular upkeep. In the process, preventative or planned maintenance programs help reduce maintenance costs, improve performance and eliminate potentially dangerous equipment failures.
The first step in establishing a preventative maintenance program is identifying what maintenance tasks are to be done, how often and on what equipment. Make these determinations by asking yourself the following questions:
- How old are your forklifts and how many hours do they have on them? As forklifts age, they generally require more frequent and intensive maintenance to remain in good operating condition.
- What's the vehicle's service history? Has it received adequate maintenance in the past? Are there any on-going issues that need to be taken into account?
- What are the safety requirements and mandatory maintenance tasks for each piece of equipment? As noted above, annual inspections and mandatory maintenance tasks depend on the number of hours and type of equipment. This should be built into your maintenance program.
- What are the manufacturer's recommended service intervals for your forklifts? These identify recommended maintenance intervals (as measured by total hours of operation) for a variety of components.
- What's the application and work environment like? High intensity / high hour applications and caustic work environments can create some unique issues that must be specifically addressed in your maintenance plans.
- If you're unsure about how to answer any of these questions or how the answers will impact your maintenance needs, contact Lucas' service department today. We'll work with you to build a planned maintenance agreement that perfectly suits your needs and application.
Now that you've established your maintenance needs, it's time to implement your maintenance program. We recommend implementing the following:
- Prepare and enforce rules - prepare and distribute written instructions on the nature and frequency of inspections, testing and maintenance, taking into account the work to be done and the environmental conditions to which the forklifts will be exposed.
- Technical qualifications - ensure that inspections and maintenance are only performed by qualified mechanics with sufficient knowledge and industry experience. Contact Lucas for assistance - our staff have decades of experience in the industry and are knowledgeable on all makes and brands.
- Record keeping - ensure an accurate record of all inspections, testing, maintenance and repairs made to each unit, as well as the name and qualifications of the technician responsible for the work.
- Key areas of focus - ensure all the key areas receive regular inspections and maintenance including safety components (horn, check flow valve, etc.), vulnerable areas (welds, joints and other key stress points), structural and support components, load handling components (forks, hooks, sheaves, etc.), lifting components (mast, chains, hoses, hydraulics, etc.) and the propulsion system (motor, transmission, wheels, etc.).
Bonus Maintenance Tips:
In addition to the tips mentioned above, there are a few more best practices and procedures you can implement to reduce maintenance costs and improve safety at your facility. These include:
- Operator training - well-trained and experienced operators are better equipped to avoid dangerous and destructive behaviours. Meanwhile, poorly trained operators have a tendency to attempt maneuvers and operations that endanger others and result in equipment or proper damage. For help with your forklift training needs, check out Lucas' operator training programs.
- Tire checks - your tires have a massive impact on your ability to safely maneuver a forklift. After all, it's through their contact with the ground that a forklift can accelerate, decelerate and change directions. As such, it's vital to keep your tires in good operating condition. This can be accomplished through regular tire inspections (for more information, see our recent forklift tire maintenance blog) and changing out your tires when necessary.
- Keep things clean - cleaning is a simple yet underappreciated component of equipment and facility maintenance. With forklifts, for example, you'll more likely to spot damage and quickly diagnose it if your unit isn't covered in dust, dirt and particulate. What's more, allowing caustic material to build up on your equipment can dramatically accelerate damaging processes such oxidation.
As you can see, there are many things to take into consideration when it comes to forklift maintenance. For help with your forklift maintenance needs and operator training, contact Lucas Liftruck Services today.