According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there are nearly 100,000 injuries each year due to forklift accidents. Of these, nearly 100 prove fatal. The most common accident is forklift tip-over, which in most instances can be directly related to an overloaded machine. This often takes place because the forklift operator is not properly trained to calculate the load capacity of the machine.
Locate the data plate on the forklift. On most sit-down units, the data plate is located just beside or in front of the operator's seat. These plates should be in plain sight of the operator while in the cab so they can be used in calculating load capacities. The data on these plates cannot be changed or altered except by an authorized and licensed individual. A reason this data might be altered would be the addition or removal of specialized optional equipment.
Determine the weight center and weight of the load to be carried. A standard forklift lift capacity is determined on a load with a load center 24 inches from the floor and 24 inches from the front edge. If the forklift's rated capacity is 4,000 pounds, this is based on the 24-inch load center. The 4,000-pound capacity listed will change as the load changes as it is raised or tilted.
Consult the data plate to determine the weight capacity. On the data plate there will be a graph that shows the changing capacity for that particular forklift. On the graph will be a series of curved lines indicating the machine capacity. On a 4,000-pound capacity lift, the load capacity will drop as the load is lifted. The maximum load capacity can drop by 50 percent or more as the load is elevated. On a forklift with a load center more than 24 inches from the front edge, the adjusted capacity will be far below the listed 4,000 pounds. This is due to the change in the forklift's center of gravity and its effect on the counterbalance calculations. Exceeding the rated capacity at any level will result in a tip-over. This event is highly dangerous to the operator and any pedestrians or other workers in the area.
Be certain you understand the data plate and know the approximate weight of your load before attempting to move or lift it.
In the event of a tip-over, never attempt to jump from the forklift. You are far safer remaining in the operator's compartment in the event of an accident.