Cold weather means more than simply throwing an extra hi-vis jacket into the ute on the way to work and bringing out the thermos to keep your coffee piping hot in the warehouse. Although they may be machines, your material handling equipment isn't immune to the effects of the winter chill.
Here are a few tips on what to look out for when operating in the colder months!
Just like your car is dewy in the morning, your forklift may also build up condensation overnight in a cold warehouse. This condensation can create slippery steps and handles, which may create slip and fall hazards in the warehouse. Be aware that condensation may also form on the polished concrete floors of many warehouses, creating a sometimes unstable surface for your lift truck. Wearing boots with good tread can help avoid slipping on these surfaces.
Ensure you're wearing warm layers when operating your machinery. Dressing in layers will help you adjust to the changing temperature when moving between indoor and exposed areas. In extreme cases, look out for symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite which may occur due to exposure to cold. These can include shivering, fatigue, confusion, loss of coordination and possible loss of consciousness. Seek immediate medical care if these symptoms arise.
Closing warehouse rollers and windows may help keep the cold out but could also be dangerous for your health. The production of carbon monoxide from diesel and gas-powered forklifts can linger in the air, and closed windows and doors will decrease ventilation and increase the levels of this dangerous gas at your facility. Frequent air quality and emissions testing is the best way to keep these gasses in check.
Lower temperatures can affect the way fluids in your vehicles may act. At temperatures close to freezing, an electric battery's electrolytes may be affected and result in a decreased cycle time. Diesel and LPG variants will also be affected as cold temperatures will produce hard starts and also require more fuel to run. In all units, lower temperatures will thicken the oil of not only the engine but also of the hydraulic equipment, sometimes causing the equipment to function marginally slower than usual.
No matter how extreme the cold is in your work environment, the number one priority is safety and using common sense. How people and machinery react to the cold can be the biggest danger in the warehouse over winter. However, staying alert may be the difference between slight discomfort and serious injury.