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Fix the Forklift

Fix the Forklift
Don't take chances handling bulk seed.

When I visited a farmer recently, tools were scattered all around his forklift. It wouldn't start, and he couldn't load beans into his bean buggy to go plant until he could start it. It's the downside of trading 50-pound bags for 40 or 50 unit bags or boxes. If the forklift doesn't run, you're stuck.

This forklift, like many others in farm shops all across the state, came from industry originally. New ones are so expensive that it's tough to justify owning a new one when you primarily use it to move and load out seed in the spring.

In this case, jumping with a wire across the starter started it, indicating the problem was likely in the neutral switch. It actually turned out to be the ignition switch. The other problem is that not everyone, including mechanics at some equipment dealerships, are trained in working on forklifts. They're not exactly a staple on every farm, or at least they weren't in the past.

If you have one, experts advise keeping it in good condition. Check key components regularly. Most run on propane, with the tank sitting behind the operator. Make sure connections are tight and that the tank is n good condition.

Don't abuse the forklift. Know the load that it is rated for. In an industrial accident recently, the company was cited because the load being lifted when an accident occurred was 100 pounds more than what the forklift was rated to handle.

Some won't operate well off of a concrete surface, either. If you drive onto a part of the toolshed floor that's not concrete, make sure you can navigate without getting 'hung up.' If you get hung up, it means pulling the forklift out, and that increases the danger involved in the situation.

Also, be certain the forklift can safely lift the load you have a high as you need to lift it. Some modern commercial seed carts are relatively tall. Big seed boxes and seed bags are relatively tall. You'll need to make sure you have enough lifting power and height range to get the bag or box over the cart so that you can empty the seed into the cart.

Stress to employees that the forklift is a tool- a piece of equipment. It's not a toy for someone to have fun with. When it comes to maintenance, general care, and safety, treat it as you would any other piece of equipment in your farm line-up.

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