Can Forklift Forks Be Repaired?
If you’ve ever seen a forklift, then you’ve likely noticed the two metal prongs called forks at the front end of the lift. The forks on a forklift are what essentially allow a lift truck to access, lift, and carry loads of all sizes. Basically, forklift forks are responsible for the heavy lifting a forklift does in warehouses, construction sites, and dockyards.
Forklift forks are essential components of the forklift, and they can become damaged from regular wear and tear. The state of the forks affects the safety of the entire forklift and whether or not it is safe to use. Learn how forklift forks get damaged, what damage is unrepairable, when forks can be repaired, and how to prevent damage to protect workers’ safety.
How Do Forks Get Damaged?
Forks can get damaged in a number of ways. Forklift forks, mainly the heel which is the part that curves upward and outward, become thin over time due to daily operations and certain forklift attachments can also lead to damage if the forks are consistently pushed past their limit.
Here are a few of the ways forklift forks can become damaged:
- The fork weight limit is surpassed
- Improper fork maintenance is done that has bent, welded, or drilled holes into the fork
- The forks collide with walls, columns, and other structures
- Large, uneven loads are lifted
- Excessive heat is applied to the fork
- The forks are used for pushing or prying things open
- The forks are allowed to hit the ground
- Only one fork is used
How Can Fork Damage Be Prevented?
Workers should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for taking care of the forks. Inspections of the forks should take place at least once a year, or more frequently for severe applications.
Workers can prevent fork damage by following these recommendations:
- Protect the heel of the forks. Since the weight of a load is carried on the heel of a fork, it’s important to keep that part protected.
- Use the forks for lifting only. Some forklift operators use the forks to push objects or pry things open, but that can damage the forks and compromise the safety of the forklift.
- Do not exceed the forklift maximum capacity. The maximum capacity of a forklift is the maximum weight limit it can safely hold. Don’t exceed this number to avoid damages to the forks and other parts of the forklift.
- Ease the forks down to the ground. Out of the desire to speed up the work process, some operators let their loads down too fast and forcefully and end up causing cracks in the forks.
- Always use both forks. Using one fork for anything will put too much pressure on it and cause bending or cracking.
When Shouldn’t Forks Be Used?
If any of the following characteristics are noticed during the daily pre-start inspection, the forklift forks should be pulled from use and either repaired or replaced:
- Surface cracks
- Uneven blade or shank
- Uneven angle from the blade to the shank
- Different fork tip heights
- Malfunctioned positioning lock
- Wear and tear on the fork blade or shank
- Wear on the fork hooks
- Illegible fork markings
What Are the Rules for Fork Repair?
For any fork repairs that need to be done, the employer must first receive the manufacturer’s approval. According to OSHA, “Modifications and additions which affect capacity and safe operation shall not be performed by the customer or user without manufacturer’s prior written approval.” This means that when a fork becomes damaged, any repairs that the employer wants to make must first be approved by the forklift manufacturer.
Additionally, forklifts cannot be altered with parts that are different from the parts originally used and installed by the manufacturer. They can’t have added parts that are not provided by the manufacturer, including subtracting parts. What this means is, fork repairs must be manufacturer approved and any new parts must also be manufacturer provided.
Are There Instances Where Forks Can’t Be Repaired?
Forklift forks should not be repaired if there are significant damages, including:
- The wear and tear on the fork is at 10% or greater
- There are significant cracks, not just surface markings
- One or both forks are significantly bent or distorted in any way
- The difference in height of either fork exceeds 3% of the blade length
Another situation in which forks should not be repaired but should be replaced is when the manufacturer does not approve of the proposed repairs and suggests the forks be replaced with new products.
How Can Workers Stay Safe from Fork-Related Hazards?
The number one way workers can stay safe and avoid fork damage is through operator training. Forklift training teaches workers not only how to operate forklifts, but also how to perform equipment inspections which gives them the skills and knowledge needed to know when forks are damaged and must either be repaired or replaced. Training also teaches workers how to recognize hazards to avoid damages and accidents in the first place.
Check out the online forklift training from ForkliftCertification.com today to learn more!