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Maintenance & Management

​When To Replace Forklift Forks

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. Federal law (OSHA Standards 29 CFR 1910.178) mandates that forklift forks which see around-the-clock use should be inspected on a per-operation basis. As part of a pre-operation inspection, forklift forks should ideally 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.

What to look for:

1. Excessive wear to the forks
Forklift forks decrease in thickness over time due to normal wear. However, any wear to the fork over 10 percent of the total thickness is considered excessive. Forks that show this amount of wear should be replaced.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Any bends or uneven surfaces on the fork
All forks are delivered with a 90 degree 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.

5. Difference in fork blade height
A difference in the height of each fork blade should stay within 3 percent of the fork length. Therefore if the forks in question are 42 inches long the allowable difference in fork height would be 1.26 inches. Any difference in fork height beyond 1.26 inches is a sign that both forks need to be replaced.

6. 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.

7. 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 common questions.
1. 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 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." says Terry Melvin, CEO of Arrow Material Handling Products.

2. 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.

3. How do I determine replacement fork quality?
Forks made from high quality boron-carbon alloy high strength steel are rated 20% 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.

Helpful Links

- OSHA's pre operation forklift checklist and fork can be found at https://www.osha.gov/dte/libra...
- OSHA's guidelines on fork wear can be found at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etoo...
- Arrow Material Handling Products' Fork Quality Standards http://www.arrowmhp.com/pdfs/F...

This article was submitted by Arrow Material Handling Products.

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