Opinion

Load Capacity Estimation for Powered Industrial Trucks

Forklift Operator Carrying TimberCan your forklift operators answer the following questions on demand?

Can your forklift operators answer the following questions on demand?
What is the maximum load capacity of their forklift?
What is the best method of determining whether their forklift is capable of picking up a load?
What does the load on their forklift actually weigh?
When do they not have the full capacity of their forklift to use in lifting a load?
Is a forklift more stable with a load on it than without a load on it?
What does the area of the standard load measure as defined by OSHA and ANSI?

The above are basic information points that every forklift operator should know, don’t you agree?   So take a survey of your operators anytime and see how many can answer any one of these questions without research or taking time to ask someone else.  After all, they are operating a multi-ton vehicle that is made of heavy gauge metal components equipped with a solid lead counterbalance and engine compartment with an average weight in general industry of about 3.5 TONS!  Add to that the two 4 Ft. spears (called forks) jutting from the front of the vehicle into the open air.  Don’t you think someone operating this kind of vehicle should know these points of information to be considered “qualified”??   Well, unfortunately, as you would find out in your impromptu survey, most operators would have trouble answering any of these questions and it is not all their fault for not knowing.

Curiously enough, there is a section of the OSHA regulation CFR 1910.178 , Appendix A, that is called “non-mandatory” when it comes to training topic requirements.  This section is what is often referred to as “load capacity estimation” as it deals with specific procedures and mathematical explanation of how an operator can figure out if a load is safe to try and pick up or whether he/she may overload the vehicle.  I wonder how this got placed in the non-mandatory section of the training regulation sub section because it really is the entire reason for training someone properly on a forklift.  This section, in order to understand it and apply it on the job, also requires that the operator understand the other parts of the basic information of the forklift regulation so understanding load estimation would imply a comprehensive understanding of forklift operations, types, loads, hazards, and power sources.   Of course, the basic configuration of a forklift and the successful functioning of a forklift when used is based on some very basic principles of physics.   Most forklift operators are not well versed in these principles nor should they have to be outside those basic concepts that apply to forklifts.

Understanding load capacity estimation principles, practices and choices allows the forklift operator to make intelligent and safe decisions on the question of “should I or shouldn’t I” pick up this load and try to move it.  This understanding further reduces product damage costs, operator injuries and stress while increasing morale, confidence and overall performance.  When a forklift operator achieves an accurate understanding of how to make the correct decision of “lift or no lift” with his specific forklift, he has become twice the valued employee he was without that knowledge.  She does not take chances on trying to pick up odd-sized, overloading and unwieldy loads that most often either get dropped, damaged and lead to the cause of an injury, as well. He/she does not take chances, in other words, because he does not have to take chances.  After all, isn’t this the goal of training these operators?

If your training course does not include the non-mandatory load estimation training and information section (99% do not) feel free to give us a call and the opportunity to show you how this works and how much better your operators will perform for you.  Yes, you can have “no accidents” and “no damage” and “no product loss”.  You just have to know what training information is needed and how to deliver it.

Good luck and safe operating!
Dennis Diamond-President