Rains causes wet surfaces which can increase the level of complexity of operating a forklift. One of the most dangerous situations that can arise out of it includes the tires losing grip on a slick surface which causes skidding of the forklift when brakes are suddenly applied. There are other issues as well, some easy to recognize while some are harder. Although experience is considered good, in some cases it can become expensive and possibly hazardous. You should ensure sufficient training programs for your forklift operators and facility employees so that they can be aware of the potential hazards of operating a forklift in rainy weather and on wet surfaces.
Some of the problems faced in operating forklifts in wet conditions are shared below with precautionary measures on how to handle such conditions.
Provisions and guidelines for operating the forklift on inclined surfaces
Your employees should be trained and capable of operating forklifts on inclined surfaces. This training should also include heavy load handling to make them adept at performing their duties in a safe way. Moving and parking the forklift on wet and inclined surfaces, although not as critical, should be a mandatory part of the training program as well. A good operator trainer will cover important details such as only going up or down inclines and to never drive at an angle or “sideways” on a ramp. You should never carry a load downhill facing downhill. It should also be noted that you should never in any condition, dry or wet, carry a load in front of you that you cannot see over or through. Instead, it is better to drive in reverse and use a spotter when possible in order to prevent any incidents. If your application consists of driving up and down ramps with a load it is that much more imperative that your brakes function at top performance.
Let me break it down a little here. Let’s say I’m carrying a 4,500 lb pallet across the warehouse floor with my 5,000 lb capacity UNICARRIERS lift truck that I acquired from Permian Machinery Movers, Inc. at one of their three locations. Someone walks across my pathway and I have to stop! I need to be aware that I am sitting on a lift truck that weighs approximately 8,500 lbs that is holding a 4,500 lb load. I am asking my brakes, which are only two drums on a single axle (drive axle) to stop 13,000 lbs right now! There is of course more physics involved from here which include velocity (speed) and when you start talking ramps there is the gradient and traction factors to include as well. This simple example helps demonstrate that operating a lift truck on grades and angles is best left for those with experience operating lift trucks on flat ground first.
Rain affects the view from the windshield of a forklift, or lack thereof. Some lift trucks have an operator cab. These are typically air conditioned/ heated and do have windshield wipers. However, these machines operate in filthy conditions and quite often the windshield becomes so dirty that it harder to see through than without. Falling rain can hinder vision, especially when it comes with large clouds that darken the skies blocking all of the natural light. In outdoor settings, forklift operators are heavily dependent upon natural light for sufficient visibility. If the forklift must transition between indoor and outdoor settings, the transition can become quite difficult from a visual perspective due to the stark difference in the illumination between the indoor and the outdoor setting. Ask your representative about LED lighting for your lift trucks. We can outfit your truck with LED headlights that will increase operator visibility. Your lift truck should have an awareness light as it is for compliance. If you don’t have one make the call to Permian and get yourself compliant with an LED strobe light and other options so that your operator can not only see but be seen as well!
As someone who trains operators of all skill levels I always teach and remind that it is important to drive according to your skill level and the conditions. When it’s raining you take longer to stop, your vision is compromised and you have less traction starting, stopping, and turning. You must slow down in all aspects of operating in the rain. Operating in the rain isn’t impossible, it can be done safely and efficiently if done properly.
Changes to floor integrity
When operating lift trucks in wet environments one may encounter transitions between wet and dry areas. We’ve all been driving when it begins to rain, and you quickly notice conditions change with the weather. You can’t accelerate without being cautious of spinning tires and you must give yourself more room to stop. As a forklift operator you notice that these qualities become more exaggerated when operating in wet conditions. It is important that operators are mindful of these conditions and drive accordingly. A posted sign reminding operators that they are entering wet areas might be a helpful reminder. Your forklift operators should be trained to observe their surroundings carefully and slow down when operating in inclement weather conditions. Even if the working area is indoors, forklift operators should still exercise caution as puddles or wet patches can crop up unexpectedly in the indoor working area.
Poor judgment and slow reflexes
Operating equipment in the rain can be a nerve-wracking experience if you are not prepared for it. Getting drenched in the rain can cause problems for forklift operators which might make them susceptible to making poor decisions while operating the truck. If the overhead guard is an open style one and doesn’t catch the rain, then I recommend the tried and trusted poncho. Anything to protect the operator and keep fatigue to a minimum should be employed if it doesn’t hinder the operator’s vision or performance. In cases where quick thinking is needed, a time-taking decision can lead to an accident. Ensure adequate training for your forklift operators and provide them suitable clothing to combat inclement weather.
Hardship in maintaining the equipment
Lift trucks should always be treated with respect and even more so when the application includes wet areas. The lift truck should be cleaned, and all wiring should be inspected for any open circuits. Water aids in the conductivity of electrical currents, so it should be addressed before being sent out to work in these conditions. Another wear item that should be properly maintained is tires. The tires are the interface between the truck and operator and the surface in which it operates. If they have air in them, the pressure should be checked often if not daily and tread should be compared to wear bars on the tire for service life. If they are solid or cushion tire, they will also have wear bars or wear lines on the side walls. These are to gauge how much material is left on the tire to stay within manufacturer recommended service wear. Remember, if you have a cushion tire you can still implement a tire with tread. If you deal with any type of slipping issues in your application, then ask for a traction tire. Forklifts should be cleaned on a regular basis and frequent tire inspections should be done to check for wear and tear. If the tires are found to be damaged, change them at once.
Rainy weather can be a hazard for forklift operations if you are not prepared for it. Ensure proper training of forklift operation and maintenance crews for a safer operation. Reach out to Permian Machinery Movers, Inc. to see if we can help outfit your truck to better suit your needs. Thanks and safe material handling!