Lift trucks can be extremely useful. They can help you transport heavy loads to and from loading docks, storage areas, retail floors, work sites, and more.
But this equipment can also be dangerous, especially outside, as forklift operators need to stay cautious of potential hazards.
In this article, we’ll go over eight tips on how to safely operate a forklift outdoors.
Let’s get started.
Eight Safety Tips for Outdoor Forklift Operators
1. Check the weather.
Before you operate a forklift outside, it’s important to check the weather forecast. If the weather looks bad (or is expected to get worse), you may want to rethink operating a forklift.
Rain and snow can make the ground slippery or muddy, and fog could make it difficult to see. In some cases, a storm could even damage the forklift, and seasonal factors could impact the forklift’s ability to operate at all.
So, try to schedule the forklift job for when the weather is clear. That might mean postponing the task. Just remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry.
2. Make sure you’re using the proper gear and equipment.
Next, it’s important to make sure you are using the proper gear and equipment.
If the weather is cold, wear warm clothing like a coat, gloves, and a hat. If there’s a lot of sunlight, be sure to wear some sunscreen. And you should always wear protective gear like a reflective vest and helmet.
As for equipment, make sure you have the right forklift for the job. It should be able to handle rough terrain. So you may need to weatherize it by equipping it with all-season tires, for example. Check out our lift trucks page to explore some of our outdoor forklifts for sale and rent.
3. Inspect the forklift.
Any time you get into a forklift, you should inspect it. Here are some things to check:
- Fluid levels. Make sure the outdoor forklift has enough oil to keep the engine cool (especially in the summer) and antifreeze (to keep it from freezing in the winter).
- Gas or battery level. Make sure there’s sufficient gas or battery life so that the machine won’t die on the job.
- Tires. Make sure tires aren’t flat or too full (bloated tires could explode on you), and check that they have enough tread.
Other items to check include screens, lights, hydraulics, steering, and other attachments. Do all of this before you start driving the forklift.
4. Keep the forklift load stable.
When loading an outdoor forklift, make sure the load is stable so that it doesn’t fall over. For example, you don’t want to overload the forklift. Check its weight capacity and stick to it. You also don’t want to carry an off-center load. Stack crates and boxes evenly. And lastly, avoid carrying damaged or loose loads, which are at a higher risk of falling off as well.
5. Stay alert.
While operating the forklift outside, the number one safety rule is to stay alert.
This means staying focused on the job at hand by eliminating distractions, constantly checking your surroundings, and keeping an eye out for other workers, obstacles, and even wildlife.
Driving a forklift outside is different from driving one inside because you aren’t in a contained environment. You need to stay alert to manage the increased risks. Anything could happen.
Operating forklifts is a dangerous job, not immune to safety hazards. Which, if left unchecked, can cause serious damages. Luckily, a safety checklist helps keep your workplace incident free.
6. Monitor the terrain.
One big difference between indoor and outdoor forklift driving is the terrain. Outside, you may face unsmooth surfaces (e.g. gravel and rocks) and more inclines and declines (e.g. hills and ramps).
As a result, you need to monitor the terrain. Watch for uneven surfaces, slopes, and gaps so you don’t slide or tip over the forklift. That way, you lower the risk of seriously injuring yourself and others and causing damage to the forklift or other equipment.
Keep in mind that the terrain could also change suddenly. For example, in transition areas between indoor and outdoor environments, there may be sudden changes in surface (e.g. smooth to rough) and even lighting (e.g. light to dark).
Learn how to navigate these tricky areas by practicing driving in them. Train yourself to slow down and carefully maneuver the forklift so you don’t run into any problems.
7. Communicate with others.
Communication is vital in forklift driving, especially outside. It allows you to alert fellow workers about your forklift position, driving direction, changing conditions, and sudden hazards.Forklifts are heavy pieces of equipment, after all.
By communicating with other workers while you drive, you can lower the risk of a job site accident and avoid serious damage or injury. Others can help you drive a forklift safely by communicating with you as well.
For example, they might watch your blind spot for you or give you a heads-up about an obstacle in your way.
Ultimately, great communication is the key to keeping everyone safe around outdoor forklifts.
8. Regularly maintain your forklift(s).
One last, often neglected step of safe outdoor forklift driving is keeping your forklift properly maintained. Regular maintenance is especially critical for outdoor forklifts because they are more susceptible to the elements, leading to faster wear and tear.
So maintain a regular maintenance schedule for your outdoor forklifts. Clean them often to prevent rust, oxidation, and damage from salt exposure. You may also want to check the hydraulics occasionally and attend to any engine or warning lights. Doing so helps ensure your outdoor forklift stays in working order and lasts longer.
HTX Material Handling: Texas’ Top Provider for Lift Trucks, Parts, Rentals, and More
HTX Material Handling is Texas’s leading provider of lift trucks, parts, rentals, and more. If you need a durable, strong outdoor forklift to withstand an even tougher workspace, HTX Material Handling can help.