One of the most important elements of accident prevention is keeping a safe load capacity. We’ll explain what it is and what you need to know to stay safe.

Safety is an important issue for all forklift operators.

Just to name a few, operators must:

• be trained
• know all safety devices and functions of the lift truck
• never operate a forklift for any purpose other than its intended use
• travel at safe speeds
• space out forks properly
• and never exceed the rated capacity of the forklift they are operating

That last bullet point is critical. Keep reading to understand why a forklift’s load capacity is important.

What Is The Capacity Of A Forklift?

The stated capacity of a forklift only applies to the load centre indicated on the capacity plate. If the load’s centre of gravity is not centred at the specified position, the forklift’s capacity will be reduced.
Loads come in all shapes and sizes, not just symmetrical boxes.

What Is The Maximum Weight A Forklift Can Carry?

The maximum weight a forklift can carry depends on several factors. The load size, position and weight distribution all critically affect the forklift’s capacity and the stability of the truck. For example, if a 2,000kg rectangular box is stood up vertically, the truck’s load capacity will be higher than if it is positioned horizontally with the long end of the box overhanging the forks.

Forklifts have a counterweight installed to help offset the weight being lifted by the forklift. This helps keep the forklift stable while it’s lifting and moving. Forklifts are designed with maximum carrying capacities using the counterweight for balance, the front tires as the balance point and the centre of the forks as a predetermined location where the load’s centre of gravity needs to be located in order to achieve the maximum load capacity (i.e. load centre). 

Risks Of Exceeding Forklift Load Capacities

There are several potential hazards that can occur when a forklift exceeds its maximum load capacity. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Tipping over
  • Dropping the load
  • Loss of steering control 
  • Collision

To avoid these risks, operators should:

  • know where to find the forklift’s load capacity plate
  • understand the effects of a load’s weight, shape, size and position on load capacity
  • minimize the distance from the front wheels to the load’s centre of gravity
  • load the heaviest part towards the mast

Forklift attachments will change the characteristics of how a forklift will operate, including the load capacity. It’s important to make sure that operators understand the de-rated capacity of the forklift, so they know its new load capacity limitation when using the new attachment.

Where To Find Load Capacity Data

All forklifts are equipped a load capacity data plate. This plate goes by a variety of names including nameplate, data plate, weight plate or load plate. Depending on the forklift make and model, the plate will differ slightly and may display some or all of the following information:

  • General forklift information such as: brand and model, serial number, and forklift type.
  • Information on parts and components: Tire types and sizes, mast type and front tire tread.
  • Weight and load information:

    • Forklift weight
    • Battery weight
    • Attachments used in weight calculation
    • Back and forward tilt
    • Load capacity
    • Maximum lift height
    • Load centre distances

Mast height also has an impact on capacity, as the capacity is reduced at greater heights. Lift trucks with high masts have different capacity ratings for the different heights; operators should always refer to the manufacturer capacity plate for mast height ratings.

How To Avoid Load Capacity Issues

Here are some basic rules you can follow to avoid running into forklift load capacity issues and unsafe work environments. 

  • Ensure operators have read and that they follow the instructions in the operator’s manual
  • Never exceed the forklift’s stated load capacity
  • Buy or lease forklifts with a load capacity that’s slightly larger than what you need for the job
  • Make certain that the capacity plate can still be read and has correct information
  • Train operators to always use the load capacity plate – never make assumptions
  • Always travel at a speed that will maintain control of the forklift and load and keep the load in the lowest position possible

Operator awareness and proper training are the best means for accident prevention.