Load Capacity 101: Operate Your Huntersville, NC Forklift Safely

If you or employees misunderstand the load capacity of your forklift, then it's not only dangerous, but it can destroy your forklift.


A forklift is a common piece of equipment in warehouse and storage facilities. They're essential if you want to move large, heavy objects around the area and lift them up onto high shelves. Forklifts are also deadly pieces of machinery that can easily lead to serious injury if operated by someone without the proper training. 


Part of that training is learning how to calculate the forklift load capacity and how that affects the machine. Even though forklifts can lift hundreds of pounds, there is a limit. Workers in Huntersville have to be careful not to exceed that load limit of the forklift. 


What is Forklift Load Capacity?


There are two things to know in regard to what a forklift can carry. Load capacity is the maximum weight a forklift can carry at its load center. The load center is the center of gravity of a pallet sitting on the forks.


If a load is too large or not placed properly on the forks, then the forklift's load center will be off. At that point, the forklift's capacity will be reduced, and it's more likely to tip over when operated. 


Furthermore, there are forklifts with different capacity categories. These capacities are standard, mid, and high. You can find forklift capacities range from as little as 3,000 pounds all the way up to more than 70,000 pounds. 


Keep in mind that regular forklift operation assumes that the load capacity is the most you can safely lift. Regularly loading at that maximum will shorten your machine's lifespan at your Huntersville business. 


Forklift Loading Regulations


OSHA has various requirements and recommendations regarding forklift loading and operating. For example, workers are required to center the load on a forklift as much as possible and distribute the heaviest parts closer to the forklift wheels. Improper distribution can result in it tipping over and causing serious injury. 


When positioning the forklift, the forks must be level before insertion into a pallet. They must be placed under the load as far as possible and tilted back to stabilize the load. 


Before lifting the load, there must be adequate overhead clearance. When lowering the load, the operator should tilt the mast backward once again to stabilize it. 


Most importantly, all employers must provide appropriate training on vehicle inspection and maintenance for potential forklift operators. 


Calculating Load Capacity for Forklifts

When calculating your Huntersville forklift's load capacity, you have to take into account various factors. 

First, every forklift has a maximum load limit as dictated by the manufacturer. This limit assumes that your load is completely centered on the machine. It does not take into account changes in weight distribution when you lift the forks, however. 

There are also forklift attachments that can also alter the weight distribution on the forks. 

Reading the Data Plate

Every forklift should have a data plate attached to it that lists all its essential information. Some of this information includes operating weight, serial numbers, and a load capacity chart. It's important to understand how to read one if you're planning on operating a forklift. 

Each section of the data plate should be labeled accordingly. The model number and serial number are both at the top of the data plate. Underneath them are items like battery weight, mast type, back tilt, and tire size. 

The bottom half of the data plate should be where you can find the forklift's rated capacity. It's here that you can find the maximum load capacity as well as how it changes depending on lift height and mast angles. 

Forklift Attachments

Various forklift attachments come with their own rated maximum capacity. Your forklift must be re-rated by the manufacturer if you're using one. 

A side shifter is one of the most common attachments out there. They allow you to move a load from side to side without moving the entire machine. Since you're moving the load out of your load center, you won't want to use it with weights close to the maximum capacity. 

Another attachment you may come across is the paper roll clamp. These help with paper handling operations, but they also shift the load center and hold less than the normal forks. 

Lift Height

Your forklift's load capacity does not completely take into account the weight distribution when the load is lifted higher up. Load capacities decrease at higher load heights.

At best, exceeding it will result in equipment malfunction. At worst, the entire machine will tip over. 

High mast forklifts should have two capacity ratings on the data plate. The first is the maximum up to a mid-level lift height. The second is the lower rating when a load is lifted to the max height. 

Why It's Important to Know Your Forklift Load Capacity

Knowing how much your forklift can hold can keep your workers safe at your Huntersville business and help them navigate various work environments. 

For example, concrete floors can have issues like cracked or sloping floors. Damaged floors are more difficult to navigate and may put a strain on the forklift. Sloping floors will offset your load's weight and can result in the forklift tipping over if it's near its maximum capacity. 

Forklift Safety Practices

To stay safe when operating a forklift, remember that they're top-heavy. You want to keep your load low and tilted back towards the center of gravity. Be aware of uneven surfaces that can shift that balance. 

Train your employees on how to steer a forklift in tight areas and around blind spots. They should also operate at the recommended speed limit and slow down at intersections. 

Make scales available to weigh loads if they aren't marked. You should also make sure that your forklift data plates are present and in good condition. 

Operate Your Huntersville Forklifts Without Issue

Knowing the ins and outs of your forklift load capacity could be the difference between a safe employee and one that could become injured while working. As long as you follow all the regulations regarding their operation and train your operators, there shouldn't be any issues. You may also want to invest in good quality forklifts for your Huntersville business. 

CIT is a certified dealer for some of the best forklift manufacturers in the world. We can provide you with forklift rentals, parts, training, and more. Contact us to learn about our different services.