Winter is one of the more dangerous seasons for forklift operations. Snowy weather makes forklifts more prone to accidents—but even worse the snow are the falling temperatures that can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Managers should provide shelters and allow operators to take breaks to warm up. However, it’s still necessary to find ways to stay warm while operating a forklift as well.
Clothing is an operator’s first line of defense against frigid temperatures. Layering is key. Have a thin layer close to the skin, such as Long Johns underneath your normal clothes. These should pull sweat away from the body to keep it from cooling off. Over your clothes wear an additional insulation layer such as a thick wool flannel before putting on your waterproof outer jacket.
As managers, it is a good idea to make sure that everyone has sufficient cold-weather protection. If there are operators without a pair of gloves or a hat, try to provide them with these things if possible.
There are some days when warm clothing isn’t enough. A simple way to help keep warm while operating a forklift is by using hand warmers. These small packets contain salt, water, activated charcoal, and vermiculite to provide instant warmth for the person holding them. These can be inserted into gloves or coat pockets to make working more comfortable.
Some forklifts come equipped with a built-in heater. If yours does not, there are heating devices you can purchase and place in forklift cabins. These heaters are often small enough to fit in a cup holder or mounted to a dashboard and make a great addition both to a cold-weather fleet and to forklifts operating in refrigerated warehouses.
This is especially valuable if your operators are working completely outdoors. Cabin enclosures—thick pieces of plastic designed to insulate a forklift cabin—keep operators warm and protect them from wind, snow, and sleet. Such cold conditions can cause hypothermia and frostbite to set in more quickly and can hamper visibility and mobility.
The first step to keeping forklift operators safe in cold conditions is keeping them warm. The second is making sure they have quality equipment. We have all the Toyota handling equipment your company needs for every season.