Winter Forklift Safety Tips

Winter Forklift Safety Tips

Hopefully, your car is fully prepared for winter—What about your forklift?

Winter in Canada can be a beautiful thing, fresh layers of glistening white snow coating trees and a shiny layer of frost on the grass…But as Canadian’s we know it’s not always quite that glamorous. Canadian winters require a lot of planning and preparation – It means it’s time to dig the shovels out from the back of the shed, making sure the winter tires get on the car in time and pull the winter coat from the back of the closet.

As good as Canadians have come to be at preparing for winter, there are some things that still may fall through the cracks. You may not realize the extra safety precautions that need to be taken when operating a forklift in the winter.

Read on to learn how to stay safe while operating a forklift this winter!

Prepare Your Forklift for Winter

Forklift operators should give their forklift a detailed inspection to minimize the chance of experiencing a forklift breakdown and getting stuck in the middle of an aggressive winter storm. Getting a tuneup ahead of winter is always recommended. And of course, as always ensure you are up to date on all of your scheduled service visits and inspections. Things to ensure are in tip-top shape before braving the winter months are:

  • Tires: Check tires for proper air pressure (for pneumatic tires) and to ensure that there is sufficient depth on your treads (needed for both solid and air-filled tires). For forklifts operating in snow or ice specialized forklift chains can be installed to provide extra grip
  • Lights: Winter doesn’t just bring cold weather, it also means darker days – So ensuring your lights are in working order is something you may not think of, but is especially important. Tip – If your forklift uses halogen lighting it may be a good time to consider upgrading to LED, which lasts longer, shines brighter and is not affected by freezing temperatures or the vibrations created by your forklift during operation!
  • Hydraulics: Frigid winter temperatures can cause joints to stiffen up so ensure all of your moving parts are well-lubricated.
  • Cabs: If your forklift has an enclosed cab and windshield (recommended for winter conditions), be sure the heater and windshield wipers are working correctly and that all latches are lubricated.
  • Cooling System: It is important to ensure there is the correct amount of anti-freeze used in the coolant system. Anti-freeze ensures that the engine will not freeze solid and block the coolant system, which can lead to a number of problems including dangerous overheating.

It’s also important to remember to allow your forklift to warm up before using it. Everyone knows you’re supposed to let your car warm up during cold weather, a forklift is no different! Allowing it to warm up lessens the chance of combustion and transmission-related problems occurring.

Ensure Forklift Operators are Appropriately Clothed

Pre-winter planning is not limited to the equipment itself, especially for work that takes place outdoors. It’s important to make sure operators are equipped to do the job under more challenging conditions. Clothing needs to be able to protect operators from snow, ice, wet and slippery conditions, cold or strong winds and limited visibility.

To protect the most vulnerable areas of the body against frostbite (i.e., the ears, nose, fingers, and toes) operators need to wear appropriate protective gear including a warm hat, gloves, face mask, and water-proof boots while operating a forklift (or during most work, for that matter!) Layers are the key here, so pairing these items with wind-proof, water-resistant and high visibility outerwear, is the best way to tackle the cold and wet conditions found throughout the winter months.

Always keep in mind typical year-round PPE such as protective eyewear, hard hats, steel-toe boots or safety gloves and ensure bundling up isn’t inhibiting your ability to wear those things. You may need to purchase specialized PPE meant to keep you safe & warm at the same time like NORTH OF 49° gloves.

north of 49 work gloves ppe hand protection safety

Operator Training and Education

Beyond supplying the proper equipment to your employees, it’s essential to educate your operators with the fundamental knowledge and practical skills of operating a forklift. The Hercules SLR Training Academy can deliver this training (and more!) at The Hercules Training Academy or it can also be delivered on-site. The content covers:

  • Regulations
  • Hazard assessment
  • Pre-use inspections
  • Equipment stability
  • Operating principles
  • Refueling
  • Battery care

When it comes to managing the additional challenges posed by the winter weather, these steps can help navigate you through your shift ensuring you’re keeping the most important elements in mind:

Before Your Shift

  • Conduct a proper pre-operation inspection of the forklift. Record and report any issues.
  • Check the weather outside and make sure to adjust driving habits to current weather conditions.
  • Install and check all winter items – Including weatherized PPE and things like tire chains if needed on your forklift.
  • Avoid cold starts by allowing the forklift to properly warm-up before operating.

During Your Shift

  • Only travel as fast as the weather conditions permit – Slow down if needed and drive carefully.
  • Remove any accumulation of snow on windscreens, lights, etc. to maintain proper visibility.
  • Be sure to stop working if conditions deteriorate such as: slippery driving conditions (don’t let this be you!), limited visibility, etc. – Safety first! 
  • Try to avoid short run times (less than 30 minutes) as forklift engines tend to run a richer fuel mixture during the first 20 minutes of operation. This means it is possible for water vapor to accumulate in the engine oil and exhaust system in the cold, as evaporation isn’t possible. Try to plan your day so you can do multiple forklift tasks at once instead of scattered throughout the day.

After Your Shift

  • Clean the forklift – Remove all snow, dirt, and salt in order to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Make sure to plug in the forklift’s block and/or battery heater to avoid issues at the start of the next shift.
  • Park the forklift in a warm and dry place in between uses to avoid issues related to ice formation.

Click here to view the Forklift Safety Training course overview.

Through our Hercules Training Academy, we offer an extensive suite of high-quality safety training and certification courses. Brand new classrooms and specialized training equipment enable us to provide an even higher quality of service than ever before when it comes to safety training.

Whether you’re looking for initial or refresher training, we provide practical, hands-on courses designed to exceed the minimum safety requirements.

Our courses can be customized to fit your workplace’s specific needs. We are always willing to design a course (or multiple courses) specifically for you!

If you’re interested in building a customized training program, please get in touch. One of our training representatives would be happy to help you get started.



Warehouse Safety: is your forklift holiday season ready?


Warehouse Safety: forklifts and lift trucks

Warehouse Safety—why is it important? Warehouse work presents various short and long term heath and safety issues – these range from musculoskeletal injuries from awkward bending and lifting positions, to chemical and biological hazards from chemicals and natural factors like dampness or mould.

Warehouses are also busy places—we live in an age where everyone wants things “now!”—but during the holiday season, warehouses tend to become even more crowded. Employees, heavy equipment & machinery and packages on the floor all create obstacles for forklift and lift truck operators. Warehouse safety is easy to overlook during busy periods, especially when employees rush to meet deadlines and fill orders.

Busy times enhance the need for warehouse safety, since this is when hazards are most likely to become injurious or fatal. We know warehouse safety can feel like a nuisance, but we assure you—it never is.

In this article on warehouse safety, the spotlight is on forklift and lift truck safety on the warehouse floor. Forklifts are great to lift and move almost anything, and have become essential to any warehouse operation. However, each year there are nearly 500,000 serious injuries from forklift accidents and 85 fatalities.

Read on for common dangers for a forklift found on the warehouse floor, and our tips to keep your forklift operating safely and smoothly.

Forklift & Lift Trucks: common warehouse incidents

As we previously mentioned, forklifts are a very common presence in most industries and are found in the majority of warehouses. Due to being found in so many places, one of the biggest dangers forklifts present is the assumption that they aren’t dangerous. Often, workers become “used” to operating a forklift and forget to follow certain operating procedures, which can result in accidents.

The Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) says common forklift injuries and accidents involving workers include:

  • Forklifts being driven off loading docks;
  • Falling between a dock and an unsecured trailer;
  • A worker being struck by a forklift when it’s in reverse and the operator cannot see the worker;
  • A forklift tipping over and crushing an operator or worker;
  • The load on a lift truck isn’t secured or loaded properly and falls off the forks;
  • The operator not keeping their arms and legs inside the cab, which causes them to slip/fall when they get out of the cab.

It’s still a piece of heavy machinery that can cause escalating incidents, as we’ve seen from certain viral videos. This is why it’s important to train new employees and existing employees, to ensure they’re updated on current operating procedures and safety standards. Other common forklift accidents include racking and property damage—which can include anything from damage to other equipment or the building itself. The IHSA says these accidents are caused by three main factors:

  1. Insufficient training
  2. Little safety rule enforcement
  3. Lack of safe operating procedures

Warehouse Safety: inspect your forklift

Hands in? Check. PPE? Check. Looking ahead? Check.

When using a forklift under normal conditions, the CCOHS recommends inspecting forklifts both daily and every six months. A daily visual inspection should include looking for any visible defects or cracks, while a 6-month inspection should be done by a certified inspection technician.

To inspect your forklift, look for:
  • Exposed wires coming from any cables;
  • Worn, loose or dirty battery plug connections;
  • Clogged vent caps;
  • Leaks in the hydraulic system;
  • Damaged wheels;
  • Wear, bends or cracks in forks;
  • Broken or chipped carriage teeth;
  • Chain anchor pins that are worn, loose or bent;
  • Damp/dry spots that would indicate a leak;
  • Chipped paint or other marks indicating damage (thought it seems minor, this is essential for roll-over protection);
  • Securely held hoses that aren’t crimped or worn.
Before operating your forklift, make sure:
  • Air pressure is good in tires;
  • Positioning latches are in good working condition;
  • Engine oil, fuel and radiator water levels are good;
  • Battery is fully-charged and secured in place.
 Operational Inspection Checklist—make sure:
  • Horn works loud enough to be heard clearly in working environment;
  • Floor brake and pedal works—check pedal travel;
  • Parking brake holds against slight acceleration;
  • Deadman seat brake holds against slight acceleration;
  • Clutch and gearshift shifts smoothly with no jerks;
  • Lights and gauges work on dash control panel;
  • Steering is not “sticky” and works smoothly;
  • Lift mechanism operates smoothly (to check, raise forks to maximum height and lower completely);
  • Tilt mechanism moves smoothly and holds (to check, tilt mast all the way forward and back);
  • Mast and carriage don’t have any lose or missing bolts, chain tension or damage;
  • Cylinders and hoses aren’t leaking;
  • Your seatbelt is fastened;
  • Forklift does not make unusual sounds.

Your daily inspection should include not only the forklift, but the warehouse floor itself. On the warehouse floor, look for:

  • Misplaced items on the floor that will create an obstacle;
  • Overhead obstructions;
  • A registered fire extinguisher that’s able to use.

Warehouse Safety: operating & controlling your forklift

Don’t be a dummy—don’t overload your forks!

When you lift a load, be sure to not move or adjust any part of the load while it’s on the forks.

To load pallets, CCOHS suggests ensuring forks are:
  • Level;
  • High enough to stack the pallet;
  • Proper width to distribute weight evenly (otherwise they’ll become unstable);
  • Under the load completely and reaching two-thirds of the load length.
Driving with a Load 101

Support the load with the front wheels of the forklift, and be sure to turn with your back forklift wheels. Be sure to never overload your forks, as this makes it difficult to maintain control of the forklift—do not add a counterweight to fix this!

When travelling on an incline, keep forks pointed downwards when travelling without a load and keep them pointed upwards when travelling with a load. Do not turn until on level ground.

Tips to maintain control with pallets:
  • Carry load with front wheels;
  • Turn with rear wheels;
  • Don’t take sharp turns at high speeds;
  • Don’t overload or add extra weight.

Be sure to avoid any sudden stops and always look in the direction that you’re travelling, whether going forward or in reverse. When in reverse, go slowly, sound your horn before proceeding and stop if vision is limited or blocked. Sound your horn, and proceed with caution.

While driving the forklift, obey posted signs, keep forks as low to the floor as possible and tilted back, decrease speed at turns and sound the horn. Remember, when it comes to using your horn— it’s better to make too much noise than not enough.

While on the floor look, remember to look for:
  • Oil spots
  • Wet spots
  • Loose objects
  • Holes
  • Rough surfaces
  • People/vehicles on the floor or roadway

Forklift Safety at Hercules SLRwarehouse-safety-forklift

At Hercules SLR, we provide hands-on training with a focus on safety—it’s important for us to provide a lasting impression and knowledge you and your employees can take with them. Find more information on our Forklift Safety Training courses here.

Find more information on Hercules SLR inspection services here, so your forklifts remain in top condition—Plus, learn more about the benefits of our asset management tool CertTracker® for your forklifts and other heavy machinery and equipment.



Hercules SLR is part of the Hercules Group of Companies which offers a unique portfolio of businesses nationally with locations from coast to coast. Our companies provide an extensive coverage of products and services that support the success of a wide range of business sectors across Canada including the energy, oil & gas, manufacturing, construction, aerospace, infrastructure, utilities, oil and gas, mining and marine industries.

Hercules Group of Companies is comprised of: Hercules SLRHercules Machining & Millwright ServicesSpartan Industrial MarineStellar Industrial Sales and Wire Rope Atlantic.