The forklift fork is often overlooked and under-inspected. Many are unaware of how often one should inspect their forks – and how to inspect them. Forklift forks should be visually inspected on a per-operation basis. In addition to visual inspections, federal law mandates a more thorough annual inspection be carried out by a trained professional (typically a forklift service provider). As part of the pre-operation visual inspection, forklift forks should be inspected for signs of cracks, bends, excessive wear or damage to either the fork tine or the positioning lock when using an ITA-mounted fork. Here’s what to look for:
- Excessive wear to the forks. Forklift forks decrease in thickness over time due to normal wear. However, any wear to the fork over ten percent of the total thickness is considered excessive. Forks that show this amount of wear should be replaced.
- Fractures due to stress or collision. Be sure to inspect the forks closely for fractures and gouges. The fork heel and parts of the fork closest to the machine typically receive the most wear. Even small cracks and gouges are signs forks need to be replaced.
- Damage to the fork tip. Since fork tips are usually the first part of the fork to come in contact with material, excessive wear or damage to the tips is a clear indicator the forks should be replaced.
- Any bends or uneven surfaces on the fork. All forks are delivered with a 90 deg angle from the shank to the blade. If any bend or uneven surface is detected on either the blade or shank, the fork(s) need replacing.
- Difference in fork blade height. A difference in the height of each fork blade should stay within three percent of the fork length. This means if the forks in question are 42 in long, the allowable difference in fork height would be 1.26 in. Any difference in fork height beyond 1.26 in is a sign that both forks need to be replaced.
- Wear or damage to the fork hook. Noticeable wear, crushing, pulling, and other deformities are signs that the fork hooks need to be replaced. Furthermore, if the wear to the hook is causing an excessive amount of distance between the fork and the carriage, the hook(s) should be replaced.
- Wear or damage to positioning lock. If a positioning lock is no longer capable of locking completely due to wear, the forks should immediately be removed from duty until the part is replaced. Operating without a fully functional positioning lock is a safety hazard and illegal.
When it does come time to replace forklift forks here are some other common questions:
- Can a single fork be replaced or should they be replaced in pairs? While only a single fork might show signs of excessive wear or damage, it is not safe to replace only one fork. It is highly recommended that forks be replaced only in pairs to ensure equal performance. Having two different forks with unique amounts of wear and disproportionate hourly usage is provides a number of safety concerns. Replacing just one fork may seem like a good idea, but can actually lead to serious safety violations.
- Is it ok to make custom repairs or modification to the forks? It is typically recommended that only the fork manufacturer make repairs or modifications to ensure forks meet safety standards. Always contact your fork provider first when in need of modification.
- How do I determine replacement fork quality? Forks made from high quality boron-carbon alloy high strength steel are rated 20 percent stronger than those made with 40CR. In addition, forks that are fully immersed into industrial heat treatment ovens and cooling pools are the most durable. Premium quality forklift forks should meet or exceed all ANSI/ITSDF and ISO standards.
Other helpful links that can help shops in the care of their forklift forks include:
- OSHA’s pre-operation forklift checklist and fork can be found by clicking here.
- OSHA’s guidelines on fork wear can be found by clicking here.
- Our own Fork Quality Standards are found by clicking here.
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