Safe Operation in The Snow

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

CAT forklift operating in the snow

Snow is a reality for many parts of North America in the Winter months. Some parts of North America even see snow throughout Autumn and Spring. This means that snow is a constant factor for more operations and applications. If your operation needs to keep running regardless of weather conditions, it’s important to ensure that you take precautionary steps. When operating a forklift, telehandler, or other type of equipment in the snow, there are several factors to account for. By adhering to the following list or precautions, you’ll be able to remain productive without increasing the risk of injury.


This may seem like a no-brainer, but the majority of incidents during equipment operation are due to lack of attentiveness. It is especially important for operators to remain alert when it’s snowing. This is due to the fact that traction and visibility will be decreased. As a result, operators may not notice hazards or be able to react in time. When operating outside in the snow, keep your hands on the wheel at all times. Lift loads carefully, and transport them at a slower speed than normal. This will help to reduce the risk of incidents without sacrificing much in the way of productivity.


Cold weather can greatly increase wear and tear on vital components. Before operating your equipment in the snow, it’s important to ensure that it’s in good working condition. Extreme cold and snow can put increased strain on components such as batteries, hydraulics, electrical systems, and engines. Each of these are crucial for proper operation, so it’s important to ensure that they’re in good condition before operation. If any parts or systems appear to be worn or degraded, replace or repair them. Proper maintenance is increasingly important during Winter months due to the accelerated rate of wear and tear. In addition to these components, you’ll want to check your tires and fluid levels. Poorly inflated or overinflated tires can lead to handling and traction issues. Overinflated tires are also at an increased risk of bursting in cold weather. Check the tire pressure before operation to ensure they are within acceptable parameters. Finally, check your oil, brake fluid, antifreeze, and other fluids to ensure they are at the correct levels. You’ll also want to check the condition of all fluids to see if any need to be replaced or flushed. Once these checks have been completed without any issues, your equipment is ready for operation!


Before most people leave for work in the winter, they often warm their cars up before starting the drive. This helps to reduce the strain put on engine components and fluid systems. The very same practice can be applied to forklifts, telehandlers, and other equipment. Before bringing your equipment out into the cold, let it run for a few minutes. This will help to reduce the risk of transmission and combustion-related issues. If your equipment is stored outside and covered in snow, a portable heater can be used to thaw it. By allowing your equipment to warm up, you’re greatly reducing the rate of wear and tear.


This may seem like another practice that should be considered common sense. That being said, most accidents and incidents in the snow are caused due to operators travelling too fast. There can be a lot of pressure on operators to continue to hit quotas despite weather conditions. Despite this, no quota is worth risking operator safety. Additionally, an accident is a surefire way to ensure that quota won’t be met at all. To allow for safe material handling in snow, reduce your traveling speed. If you continue to operate at your normal speeds, you may need to brake suddenly. This can result in skidding, collisions, or dropped loads. In the snow, it is better to be slow and safe than fast and injured.

By adhering to these precautions, you’ll be able to continue safe operation even in heavy snowfall. Stay alert, check all vital systems, warm your equipment up, and operate slowly to ensure optimal safety. Want to know more about safe equipment operation in hazardous conditions? Browse our selection of safety training courses today!