Forklift Truck Drivers: What You Need To Know About Fork Extensions
In this guide, we share with forklift truck drivers all they need to know about forklift fork extensions — how they work, the key benefits, and how to maintain and use them safely.
What Are Fork Extensions?
One of the most commonly used forklift attachments on the market, fork extension sleeves are designed to be used as a temporary attachment to extend forklift forks. As extensions, they are made to have a hollow metal sleeve which can be easily slipped over existing forks to increase their length whilst offering greater load handling stability.
Why Use Fork Extensions?
Two of the most common reasons they’re used is to enhance convenience and reduce overall cost. In many cases, you’ll find it is far more cost-efficient to purchase a pair of forklift extensions than it is to purchase a longer pair of forklift forks.
Consideration should be given as to how you plan on using the forklift truck. Purchasing one that has longer forks may come in handy for certain jobs, but it could impact the overall manoeuvrability of the forklift truck and hinder its ability to carry out other useful tasks. Forklift extensions, on the other hand, can be used as and when they are needed — enabling you to carry out a certain task, and remove them once the forklift truck needs to be used conventionally.
How Do Fork Extensions Work? And How Can They Be Used Correctly?
By providing an extension to the existing forklift forks, fork extensions are designed to offer occasional long reach and load stabilising capabilities, making them ideal for long or awkward load handling jobs.
They should, however, be used correctly. Misusing them, like any forklift attachment, can result in accidents and injuries. To ensure you’re using it correctly, ensure:
- The fork extensions are securely fastened to the forklift forks before use
- The load is evenly distributed across the entire length of the forklift extension sleeve and not just resting on the tip
- The load being lifted is within the capacity of the forklift truck, being mindful that the greater the load centre, the smaller the load that can be lifted.
Are Forklift Extensions Legal?
The international standard for fork extensions, to which they should conform to for legality, is BS ISO 13284:2003 Fork-lift trucks – Fork-arm extensions and telescopic fork arms – Technical characteristics and strength requirements. It’s important to make sure your fork extensions have been manufactured to the appropriate standards, and are supplied with appropriate Loler test certification.
How Long Can Forklift Extensions Be?
When it comes to how long fork extensions can be, there is a legal limit, and this is based on the length of the fork that the extensions are being used on.
The formula for calculating the correct length of forklift extension is:
- Max extension length = Fork length / 0.6
For example, if you had a 1200mm pair of forklift forks and wanted the longest possible pair of fork extensions to fit these, then:
Max extension length = 1200 / 0.6 = 2000. So, in this instance, the maximum allowable length of forklift extension would be 2000mm.
How Do You Drive Safely With Forklift Extensions?
When driving with a pair of extensions fitted, it’s imperative that they are securely fitted to the existing truck’s forks, via securement (behind the heel of the fork).
Consideration should also be given to the manoeuvrability of the forklift once the extensions are fitted, along with the safe stabilisation of any load.
Do Fork Extensions Impact The Forklift's Capacity?
When a forklift attachment is fitted to the forklift truck, the centre of gravity (of the combined truck and load) is usually moved forward. By doing so, the forklift’s lifting capacity can be affected.
Careful consideration should be given when it comes to lifting loads which moves the centre of gravity of the load further forwards, which forklift extensions will do.
If you’re in any doubt about how your forklift extensions will impact your forklift truck capacity, consult your forklift manufacturer or supplier.
Key Benefits Of Forklift Fork Extensions
More cost effective in many cases, compared to purchasing forklift forks of a similar length
Can be used as a temporary solution for handling long awkward loads without having to purchase a longer pair of dedicated forklift forks
Can enhance safety and make manual lifting tasks more efficient
Negate the need to have a longer pair of forks permanently fitted to the forklift truck
Can be removed as and when you need them.
Maintaining Fork Extensions
With no moving parts, forklift extensions are one of the simplest forklift attachments to maintain. Inspections for signs of wear and tear, plus any damage or deformation, should be carried out on a regular basis, ideally before every use.
Most forklift extensions on the market come supplied with heel pins, which are used for safely securing the extensions to the forklift forks.
It’s crucial for safety to make sure, when they are in fitted and in use, that the heel pins are properly in place, are free from damage, and are working correctly.
Things To Consider When Purchasing Fork Extensions
Will they fit my forklift forks? You’ll need to make sure the fork extensions are the correct size to slip over your truck forks. If they are too narrow, they won’t fit properly, and if they are too wide, they could rattle too much (or come loose). To ensure the best fit, we recommend measuring the width of your fork and the thickness of your fork (the thickness point being measured at the heel) and then match this against the dimensions of the fork extensions.
Are they the legal length to suit my forks? – The fork extension length should not exceed the fork length by more than 60% (max fork extension length = fork length/0.6). If you require fork extensions longer than what your forks allow, then a longer pair of forks should be considered to achieve the desired fork/fork extension combination.
Do they have removeable heel pins? – Fork extensions that have removeable heel pins enable the forks of the truck to be driven into the extensions, whilst lying on the floor. This removes the need to manually lift the extensions into place.
Are they certified? – By law, forklift extensions must be certified in the same as every other forklift attachment.
If you have any questions at all relating to forklift extensions, or any other forklift attachment, please do contact a member of the team today.