Forklift attachments: simple checklist for safe selection
30th January 2019
There’s no doubt that forklift attachments – used correctly and in the relevant circumstances – can boost the efficiency of your operations.
But with an ever-growing array of attachments available and new forklift trucks joining the market all the time, how can you be sure that you’re choosing the right one for the job?
And be sure you must, as the consequences of ‘making do’ are serious, yet unfortunately far too commonplace in the industry.
In recent months, we’ve seen multiple falls from makeshift working platform attachments hit the headlines, leading to extensive injuries for those involved and no doubt some serious questions asked of those responsible for the safety of their operations.
Used properly, attachments can aid operational safety, as well as efficiency. So to help you reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls, we’ve put together a simple six-point guide to safe selection...
1. Is it suitable for use with your lift truck?
Remember, when you fit an attachment to a forklift truck, the truck’s rated capacity is reduced. This is known as derating and to demonstrate this, before the truck is used with the attachment, a new capacity plate specifically relating to the attachment should be applied to the truck. (However, the base capacity will not change, nor will the category.)
If you find that your required task is outside the truck’s revised rated capacity, don’t attempt to complete it. If you have any concerns over an attachment’s suitability for use or the appropriate derating, contact your manufacturer/supplier for advice.
2. Is it fit for purpose?
It’s vital that you use an attachment suited to the task in question. Using equipment for tasks they weren’t designed to complete puts you and your colleagues at risk. For example, if you need to use your truck to lift personnel, then an appropriate working platform is necessary, as per HSE Guidance Note PM28 (Version 4). As we’ve seen, the use of an improvised or open-sided box, a pallet or even just forks, often has devastating results.
And if you do have the perfect attachment to make the task safer - use it! Don’t let convenience or complacency stop you from using the right equipment for the job.
3. Can it be safely secured?
Your attachment may be mounted on to the forks or directly onto the carriage. Make sure it can be fastened securely and won’t interfere with the mast structure during raising or lowering. Always follow the manufacturer/supplier’s instructions for fitting and use.
4. Can it be safely connected?
Regardless of whether an attachment is operated manually or hydraulically, you must ensure it can be safely connected. The forklift truck and attachment must be compatible (if you’re not sure, the truck manufacturer and the supplier of the attachment should be able to advise) and they should be connected by someone who has been trained in how to do so safely.
5. Is it fit for use?
It’s no good having the right attachment for the job if it isn’t fit to use. You must ensure it has passed any relevant inspections and examinations before use. Under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER), your lift truck and attachment should be examined every 12 months, or every 6 months if lifting personnel. The operator should also confirm that the attachment is working properly as part of the pre-use inspection of the forklift.
6. Has the operator been trained in its use?
As we’ve explained, adding a forklift attachment changes how your truck behaves. So any operators who aren’t trained in the safe use of the appropriate attachment are exposed to some very real risks.
It cannot be emphasised strongly enough that attachments need to be included in training, as their use affects such crucial aspects of forklift operation as basic handling and stability.
Regardless of what type of attachment(s) you use, some type of operator training will be required by Law. The most commonly used attachment should be covered while completing the three stages of forklift training set out in L117 and any further attachments require conversion training before use. (And don’t forget, standard forks count as an attachment.)
'Never make do'
A good rule of thumb regards forklift attachments is ‘never make do’ - whether that’s during the selection process, fitting, inspection or operator training. Following this not only reduces the risk of accidents and serious injuries for operators and their colleagues, but it ensures you and your business meet your legal requirements and remain profitable, by limiting costly damage and disruption.