Forklifts are handling powerhouses used to carry heavy items, but it does not mean that these machines can weigh unlimited loads. Forklifts have a load capacity based on comprehensive engineering analysis. However, that capacity can be affected by several variables, as we discuss below. While this article explains how to understand the capacity of your forklift, you should never operate one unless fully trained and authorized to do so by your employer.
Getting back to our initial question, “How do you know the capacity of your forklift?” let’s start by evaluating the data plate.
- 1 How to Find The Load Capacity
- 2 What Factors Influence Forklift Load Capacity?
- 3 Why Should You Not Exceed Forklift Capacity?
- 4 Adhering to Load Capacity: a Strict Safety Mandate
How to Find The Load Capacity
How do you know the capacity of your forklift? To determine load capacity, start by checking your forklift data plate. Each forklift has a data plate, also known as a forklift nameplate or capacity plate. It specifies the maximum load that a forklift can carry under particular conditions. The data plate provides crucial safety information related to load capacity.
For example, in the data plate shown above, a load with a 24-inch lateral (A) and longitudinal (B) load center is rated to lift 8,000 lbs up to a maximum mast height (C) of 187 inches. With a 30-inch load center, the capacity is reduced to 7,000 lbs. The further away the load center is from your forklift mast, the less you can safely lift.
What Factors Influence Forklift Load Capacity?
There are several other factors that impact how heavy a load your forklift can raise, including:
1. Load Center
The load center is the horizontal distance from the edge of the load to its center of gravity. A shorter load center allows for a higher load capacity and vice versa. Most forklifts are rated with a 24-inch load center, but this can vary depending on the design of the forklift and the type of load being handled. Knowing the load center is crucial as it affects the forklift’s capacity to carry that load safely. The further the load center is from the face of the forks, the less weight the forklift can safely carry. And keep in mind that all loads are not symmetrical. A load that is not evenly distributed might have a load center that is further than the halfway point of the load.
2. Mast Height
The height of the mast, particularly when extended, can influence the forklift’s load capacity. As the mast height increases, the load capacity generally decreases due to the shift in the center of gravity. Likewise, tilting the mast can also be an issue.
When you tilt the mast forward, the load center distance from the fulcrum (which is generally where the front wheels contact the ground) increases, which could potentially lead to a situation where the forklift becomes unstable, especially if the load is near or at the forklift’s maximum rated capacity. The further the load center moves forward, the lower the forklift’s lifting capacity becomes, hence increasing the risk of tipping over.
3. Tire Type and Condition
The type of tires (pneumatic, cushion, solid) and their condition can also affect the forklift’s load capacity. Worn or damaged tires can reduce stability and load capacity. The tires serve as a critical part of the forklift’s stability triangle, which is the foundation of forklift stability. Worn or uneven tires can alter this stability, making the forklift more prone to tipping or losing its balance when carrying loads, especially near its maximum capacity.
Any attachment that alters the forklift’s configuration or adds weight to the forklift can change the load capacity. It’s crucial to adjust the load capacity based on any attachments used.
The counterweight helps to balance the load. Forklifts are engineered and tested with specific parameters in mind, including the weight of the battery, which often serves as part of the counterbalance system.
Deviating from the manufacturer’s specifications can lead to a risk of accidents due to instability or reduced performance. Changes to the counterweight, such as substituting a lighter-weight battery in a counterbalanced forklift, can significantly affect the forklift’s load capacity unless compensated by adding extra lead, for example.
6. Operational Conditions
Operating conditions like the slope of the ground, surface conditions, and operating speed can also affect the load capacity.
The above factors underscore why it’s essential to adhere to the manufacturer’s specified load capacity and understand how different factors can influence it. Overloading a forklift can lead to instability, loss of control, and potentially severe accidents, including tip-overs.
Why Should You Not Exceed Forklift Capacity?
Exceeding your forklift load means your forklift’s center of gravity is compromised, and the loaded forklift is more prone to a potentially fatal tip-over event.
Operator or Pedestrian Injury
In the event of a tip-over, the operator, as well as pedestrians in the immediate vicinity, are at risk of serious or fatal injury.
According to OSHA regulation 1910.178(o)(2), “only loads within the rated capacity of a truck shall be handled”, which means that when you load heavily on your forklift, OSHA(Occupational Safety and Health Administration) will charge a fine.
Loss of Control
Overloaded forklifts will become unbalanced, and the forklift grip is not evenly allocated on each wheel, which leads to a loss of control over the forklift.
When overloaded forklifts are unable to move with balance, trucks are more likely to spill part or all of their load, resulting in damage to the load and endangering workers.
Adhering to Load Capacity: a Strict Safety Mandate
Understanding and adhering to the specified load capacity of a forklift is not merely a guideline but a strict safety mandate. It is a critical aspect that underscores the safety and operational efficacy of this indispensable machine. As noted above, various factors such as load center, mast height, tire condition, attachments, counterweight, and operational conditions profoundly impact load capacity.
An oversight or miscalculation in any of these aspects could lead to serious accidents, endangering both the operator and others within the vicinity, not to mention the financial and legal repercussions that would inevitably follow.
An educated operator is a safe operator. Hence, it’s imperative for individuals tasked with operating forklifts to undergo comprehensive training that certifies them in handling the machinery, including a deep understanding of the load capacity dynamics. Remember, a single failure to operate your lift truck with load capacity in mind can have catastrophic consequences.