The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER) require the thorough examination of lifting equipment at appropriate intervals to ensure its safe use. One of the most important factors in this examination is the forklift chain.

Because of the nature of forklift chains, the effects of stretch, wear and corrosion are far from obvious. The individual links and pins cannot be separated for a detailed examination to be carried out, making wear easy to miss in a superficial external examination.

In line with the ‘thorough examination’ guidelines the forklift should be inspected by a ‘competent person’ at regular intervals, the frequency of which are determined by that person and which take account of the risks involved, including where and how the truck is used. Typically the person carrying out the inspection is looking for cracked or missing linkplates, elongated holes in other link-plates, loose or worn pins and so on.

As a general guide, recommended intervals are:

•             Trucks operating for more than 40 hours per week;

•             …or being used to lift people;

•             …or which have a sideshift or attachment fitted

•             ….need to be examined at least every 6 months

Trucks operating for up to 40 hours per week which do not have a side shift or attachment fitted need to be examined at least every 12 months. In both cases the competent person may specify alternative intervals for thorough examination if experience shows they are appropriate.


When to Scrap

If you have any doubts regarding the suitability of your forklift chain (or any other aspect of it) the best advice is stop using it and call in an expert.

The British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) Guidance is frequently sought by forklift truck users regarding chain lubrication, and on what criteria should be used in deciding whether a particular chain is suitable for further use.

BITA recommend that under normal operating procedures chains should be maintained at 250 hours or one month truck-use intervals, whichever is the shorter. If the chain is in a slack condition, it should be lubricated with a suitable spray and the truck manufacturer should be consulted for his recommendations. Chains that are in general use should be replaced after a period not exceeding 6000 hours, or 3 years truck operation, whichever is the shorter.

BITA also suggest that all chains, chain anchors and anchor pins used in cold-stores should be replaced after a period not exceeding 4000 hours, or 2 years truck operation, whichever is the shorter.

Under no circumstances should chains be shortened or joined together (chains from different manufacturers should never be placed together on the same truck) and all chains should be removed every 6 months for inspection unless an adequate examination and measurement can be carried out in situ. Even so, it is strongly recommended that chains are removed from the truck for examination at least every 2 years.