Cold Weather Forklift truck safety

Cold Weather Forklift truck safety – For many businesses, forklifts are an essential piece of material handling equipment that they cannot do without. Whether you work in warehousing, construction, many areas of production, transportation or a myriad of other fields, forklifts trucks can make life safer and easier for both you and your employees. Winter presents many challenges to the outdoor operation of forklifts. The key to safe and efficient operation is well-trained and attentive operators. Forklift truck driver training is an absolute must to prevent forklift accidents.

Here are some cold weather forklift truck safety tips to include in your next forklift training session:

  • Winter Hazards
  • Operator Protection
  • Forklift Protection
  • Forklift Operation
  • Forklift Attachments

Winter Hazards and Cold Weather Forklift truck safety

It’s imperative that your operators understand the various hazards that arise from winter use of forklift trucks, including:

  • Snow
  • Ice
  • Wet Conditions
  • Slippery Conditions
  • Cold
  • Limited Visibility

You can address these hazards by taking care of two things:

  • The operator, and
  • The forklift truck

Operator Protection

An important component of protecting your operators is making sure that they wear the proper winter gear, including:

  • Windproof Clothing (such as polypropylene long underwear)
  • Warm Gloves and a suitable Hat
  • High visibility outer Gear
  • Multiple Layers of Warm Dress

Make sure your operator takes their breaks. In the winter, they need to concentrate more than usual, creating additional mental strain. They need their breaks to rest their eyes and brain for the next operating session.

Forklift Protection

If your forklifts do not have cabs, buy forklift covers. Avoid covers of cardboard or shrink wrap. Do not use cheap vinyl covers to save money either. Choose a cover with ribs and gutters to dispel water.

Make sure you equip the forklifts with tires suitable for winter use. The right tire will help with traction and stability.

Note that pneumatic tires are better than solid tires in bad conditions.

You can use tires with chains or studs as well.

It can help to add a weight block to the forklift too.

You should also grit the yard areas and approaches.

Forklift Operation

As part of your Cold Weather Forklift truck safety, train your operators to do a few things before, during and after they operate a forklift.


  • Make sure the winter items (chains, cover, studs, tire check) are all in place.
  • Check the outside lighting. Is it on? Is it sufficient? Do bulbs need to be changed?
  • Check the weather outside. Is it cold, wet, or icy? Operators need to know the conditions before they start working so they can dress accordingly and properly outfit the forklift.
  • Put on the cover or tire chains if necessary.
  • Check fuel and fluid levels.
  • Allow the forklift to warm up properly. This is important for the engine and especially important for the hydraulics system.


  • Slow down. Only go as fast as conditions will safely allow.
  • Ensure continuous visibility.
  • Be sure to stop working if conditions start to prevent you from working safely (limited visibility, slippery surfaces, etc).


  • Clean the machine. Proper maintenance is the first line of defense for safe operation.
  • Check fluid levels and top off if necessary.
  • For electric forklifts, plug in the battery.
  • For propane or diesel forklifts, plug in the battery heater (if there is one).

Forklift Attachments

AS part of your Cold Weather Forklift truck safety, there are forklift attachments available to help with snow control, including:

Plow – The plow attachment lets you utilize a forklift to push and remove snow from parking, loading and working areas.

Scoop – This attachment lets you pick up and pile snow out of the way to ensure a job can continue smoothly.

Salter/Sander – This forklift attachment allows you to care for your parking, loading and working areas and improve traction and stability for forklifts and other machinery or vehicles moving in the area.

Part of any forklift safety checklist should be making sure any attachments are firmly attached and the corresponding hydraulics function smoothly before the operator takes the forklift outdoors or moves it from its parking or storage area.


Store the forklift when not in use in a secure and dry area. Make sure it is plugged in if necessary, either for the battery or battery warmer for cold climates.


A good service and maintenance routine is a must for both indoor and outdoor work. Make sure maintenance services, load tests and the required annual LOLER inspection occur on time, and that your operators know to report any discrepancy on their daily check sheet immediately.

Pay close attention to vital components like engines, electrical systems, batteries and the hydraulics.

Pay Attention to Fuel Needs

In extreme cases, winterized diesel is better suited to colder weather because it is enhanced by additives to keep it from gelling in the winter. Diesel engines should be plugged in overnight to keep the fuel viscous.

Use Properly Rated Oils and Lubricants

Winter weight oils have a “W” in them and the number corresponds to the lowest temperature at which the oil can pass. For instance, 5W means 5 degrees. Use a top quality hydraulic fluid, like Hydrex XV, that has a wide working range and reaches viscosity quickly.

Do not forget the mast. Ensure lubrication occurs as needed and that the operator inspects the mast daily. The cold affects fluids first, which causes damage to the machinery if not properly monitored.

By training your operators and checking your forklifts, everyone can get through winter operations safely.

Cold Weather Forklift truck safety is important for your business – be prepared, because Safety Matters.


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