Q. How can I tell how much weight my forklift can carry?
A. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) protects workers in the workplace. This includes safe operations of powered industrial trucks (PITs), commonly called forklifts. The complete set of rules for these can be found under the Materials Handling and Storage section of OSHA regulations at 29 CFR 1910.178.
At 29 CFR 1910.178(o)(2), OSHA states that “only loads within the rated capacity of a truck shall be handled.” The rated capacity can be found on the “data plate” located on the forklift. You can see an example data plate below.
There are several important numbers on the data plate, which include the rated maximum capacity (shown with the left arrow) as well as the load center (shown with the right arrow).
The load capacity is fairly straightforward. You should never attempt to lift more than the rated capacity, which on this plate is 5,000 lbs.
The load center, on the other hand, is the center of gravity for the load and, according to this data plate, should not be greater than 24 inches. It would not be good to have a center of gravity larger than this, because if the center of gravity is too far forward, the forklift can tip forward. This could cause the load to fall off or even possibly cause the forklift to fall over.
You can actually have a center of gravity larger than the one listed on the data plate, but this will force you to carry a lighter load. You can calculate a new load limit by using a simple formula, as follows:
Rated load center / Actual load center x Rated capacity = New safe load capacity
For instance, let’s say our load actually had a load center of 28 inches. Using the equation, we can figure out the new rated capacity.
24 inches / 28 inches x 5,000 lbs. = 4,286 lbs.
To view OSHA’s complete rules on PITs, click here