Here’s why overloading a forklift is a big no-no

Why exactly is overloading a forklift truck so dangerous?

Every year, around 1,300 UK employees are hospitalised following accidents involving forklift trucks. While unavoidable accidents can happen, many incidents are simply caused by negligence or misoperation – and could be avoided.

Overloading a forklift truck is a prime example of negligence that can cause unnecessary danger and damage. Overloaded vehicles regularly tip and fall, which, at best, causes damage to your vehicles and stock, but at worst, can seriously or fatally injure personnel.

Just last year, Howden Joinery paid out £1.2m in damages after a lorry driver lost his life when an overloaded pallet of kitchen worktops collapsed. The pallets had a combined weight of 2,160kg; well over the maximum operational capacity of 1520kg of the truck in question. Tragedies like this are made all the worse by the knowledge that they could’ve been avoided.

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Know your limits

The vast majority of forklift operators understand the capacity of their machines and stick to them. However, it’s not uncommon for regular operators to become less rigorous over time, attempting to nudge a little extra weight on to pallets and try to estimate load sizes by eye.

You may have heard operators claim that if all the wheels are firmly on the ground, then the load is secure, but this is certainly not the case. And this kind of guesswork is exactly what leads to preventable accidents happening.

Counterbalancing loads

Counterbalance forklifts are designed to balance the weight of the forks plus the load with the weight of the truck, held by the back axle. With the weight of the truck off-setting the load, specific limits are required to keep the back of the truck heavier and the rear wheels gripped to the ground.

These rules have to be followed due to the nature of the forklift as a moving vehicle. The fact that a truck looks balanced with the rear wheels on the ground when static means nothing once it starts to move.

Add speed, turning, braking and lifting into the equation, and your counterbalanced weight is going to feel the strain. And that’s before external factors the terrain, floor surface, incline and weather conditions are even factored in.

The only way to 100% make sure that a load remains balanced, safe and secure throughout loading and transit is to stay religiously under the capacity limits.

Take a look at this clip of a driver operating and overloaded forklift. The vehicle just about manages to hold the load until the operator attempts to lower the mast. Nobody is injured, but the clip just goes to show how quickly you can lose control of an overloaded vehicle and how dangerous this can be.

What’s the damage?

  1. Risk of injury or fatality.
  2. Risk of overturned, damaged stock.
  3. Risk of damaged or overstrained vehicles.

The main risk of overloading forklifts is the injury or death to your operators and staff in the vicinity of the vehicle. Avoiding accidents that could harm employees should always be the primary concern of every organisation and individual on site.

There’s also the secondary threat to that of your stock and vehicles. Overturned loads mean lost profits. And if you regularly load up vehicles to the maximum, even without causing them to tip, you will place added strain on your trucks, which could lead to breakdowns and repairs down the line.

We hope you’ve found this overview useful. If you’d like to ask us any questions about finding a forklift with a load capacity that’s right for your site, call us on 0113 393 2881 or email enquiries@moorgateltd.co.uk.

We offer a comprehensive range of forklifts that are available to buy and delivered to your site at your convenience.