Forks are one of the important and essential accessories to a forklift. With that, they often receive quite a few bumps and bruises and require regular check-ups.
It is critical that your forks are inspected by a service provider at least once per year. This is for single-shift operations, but more severe applications could require more frequent inspections. The most effective method for inspecting forks is using a fork caliper.
The Shank and the Blade
The forks on a forklift truck are made up of two main sections, the shank and the blade. The shank is the vertical piece of the fork that is attached to the truck. The other piece is the blade which is the horizontal piece that picks up the load.
The first step is to use the caliper on the shank of the fork where there is usually little to no wear and tear. The measurements from there are then used to check the shank near the base of the blade. The four points of contact on the caliper are used to measure the wear on the blade. The inside section of the caliper has two additional points that automatically show a 10% reduction of the thickness of the shank, according to Equipment Journal. There are points on the caliper are then slid over the blade of the fork. If it is able to slide down to the heel, the fork is too worn and longer safe for use.
A rule of thumb to follow is that if the blade and shank angle exceeds 93 degrees, the forks must be replaced as soon as possible. Forks should never be bent back into position and used to carry a load.
Another area to take note on when inspecting your forks are whether or not cracks have developed in the blades. Cracks can begin to develop, usually near the heel of the blade, after heavy wear and tear. This is obviously a safety hazard and something that should be of note to inspect regularly.
Individual forks can develop wear over time as well. This is why it is important to regularly check to see if the height of your forks match up. If there is a height difference greater than 3% of the blade length between the tips of your forks, it is time to have them replaced. For instance, a 48-inch fork blade can’t have a distance greater than 1.4 inches between the height of the fork tips. If so, the forks would need to be replaced.
Lastly, make sure your position locks and all other fork positioning devices are working properly. These are the heart and core of fork control. Fork positioners allow fork lift operators to move the forks accurately and quickly and can also modify the distance between forks. This is especially useful when it comes to working with pallets of various sizes. If your position locks are not working properly, this can lead to unstable forks and loads.
Forklift trucks carry much larger loads than most lifting machines and offer a lot of flexibility and versatility. As common of a piece to the puzzle as forklifts are, mistreating them and/or neglecting regular maintenance and inspections on forks can be hazardous. While they may seem indestructible, forklift forks wear down just like any other machine part. And in case you were wondering, OSHA does require all powered industrial trucks to be inspected daily, including the forks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of 7,000 forklift injuries occurs each year. Regular maintenance and inspections, including the forks, are key to the safety of your operation.
Many of these points are covered in our operator training course. If you or your organization could benefit from a forklift operator course, contact our world class training department here.