How to Get Value from Pre-operation Forklift Inspections

forklift planned maintenance program

The pre-operation inspection, also known as a circle check, is a universally adopted and legally mandated practice in the forklift and material handling industry. As the name suggests, this practice consists of a thorough 360 degree visual inspection of a forklift conducted before an operator begins their shift activities. The purpose of this visual inspection is to assess the operating condition of a forklift and identify potential hazards. This way, if any safety or maintenance issues are discovered, the forklift can be removed from service.

The Value of Pre-Operation Inspections

As a tool for preventing forklift-related accidents and injuries, the value of these pre-operation inspections from a safety perspective is immediately apparent. In addition to human error, the other major cause of forklift-related injuries is equipment failure as a UK study cites mechanical failure as the primary cause for over 18% of lift truck injuries. Yet, in many of these cases, the issue behind the mechanical failure could have been identified with thorough pre-operation inspection before it became a safety hazard. As such, circle checks occupy a central role in accident prevention and employees safety wherever forklifts are in use.

While safety should be the primary reason to ensure these inspections are conducted on a consistent basis, there are also legally implications to take into consideration. 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. Under these conditions, a failure to comply with these regulations could result in thousands of dollars in fines or work stoppage.

Beyond employee safety and legal 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 save thousands of dollars per year through predictive maintenance. By identifying maintenance issues before they develop into substantial repairs, these inspections help to limit downtime and allows for easier, less expensive repairs.

The Problems with Pre-Operation Inspections

Unfortunately, the inherent value and importance of this practice is regularly undercut by widespread indifference. The cause of this indifference can be traced to a number of factors, all of which contribute to the problem, including complacency, inadequate training and the absence of formal procedures.

As this issue relates to forklift operators, there are two primary areas of concern – familiarity and a lack of knowledge. For operators that use the same piece of equipment on a daily basis, for instance, it’s would be easy to assume that if there were no issues the day before it’s unnecessary to conduct a full pre-operation inspection. However, small issues are bound to go unnoticed during daily operations and these can easily develop into larger issues that, if they continue to go unnoticed, develop into a serious safety hazard or a costly repair. Over a period of months, for example, an insufficiently greased mast may slowly wear out the rollers and result in an inoperable unit, weeks of downtime and thousands of dollars in repairs.

At the same time, many workplaces fail to properly educate and train their operators in how to conduct a proper pre-operation inspection. This lack of training creates a situation where, even though inspections are conducted on daily basis, key components are improperly inspected or missed altogether. It’s important to realize that your operators not only need to know where to look while conducting their inspection, but also what to look for. If an operator always opens up the engine bay but doesn’t check the oil or visually inspect the fans and belts, the net effect remains the same.

The issues surrounding are complacency and a lack of training are further compounded without a set of formal policies and procedures guiding how inspections are conducted, assessed, reported on and responded to. Without a system to oversee and enforce the policy, the possibility of complacency becomes greater as employees are not held accountable for substandard inspections. And, if the inspection reports are never reviewed, it’s difficult to determine which employees could benefit from further training or identify where the knowledge gaps are.

Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered the value and issues associated with pre-operation inspections, let’s look at how you can maximize their value and effective with some best practices:

  • Manage Expectations: The purpose of a circle check is to identify small issues before they can develop into bigger problem or safety hazard. Make sure your operators know that they’re not expected to run an advanced diagnostic. Establishing clear expectations will help your operators to focus on – and accomplished – what’s required of them.
  • Practice Consistency: Regardless of the situation, make sure your operators know that they need to inspect their forklifts before each and every shift. Even if the forklift was inspected earlier in the day by another operator, unnoticed issues can develop during a shift, so the forklift must be inspected before use.
  • Rotate Equipment: To avoid complacency, make sure your operators aren’t using the same unit each and every shift. Placing them in a different unit each shift will force them to pay closer attention to the pre-operation inspection.
  • Report and Respond: Establish a clear procedure for how issues are reported by operators and responded to be their supervisors. This will force employees to take responsibility and ownership at each stage and stress the importance of this practice in general.
  • Manage and Supervise: When management demonstrates a commitment to your organization’s safety policies and procedures, it signals to the operators that they need to perform up to expectations. Closer supervision will also allow you to identify gaps in training or knowledge and address where necessary.

In Closing

When done properly, pre-operation forklift inspections can add a lot of value to your organization. For help with training your operators, what to include in your forklift inspections or details about our forklift repair services contact Lucas Liftruck today!

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Jesse Nash

Can't tell you how often our guys fail to conduct these inspections or don't do them properly...

Lucas Liftruck

Hi Jesse, it's unfortunate to hear that you're having issues with your circle checks. The best thing for you to do is to make sure everyone knows how important they are and institute a culture of accountability.

Jim March

Do you guys have inspection forms for purchase/download?

Lucas Liftruck

Hi Jim, no, we don't, but checklists are available through the MOL website.

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