Forklifts and other material handling equipment are vital in many operations, so making sure you choose the right equipment for the needs of your business is an important first step. But is your site optimised for them, too?
A quality of a site’s flooring is commonly overlooked. Your warehouse floor is critical for keeping products safe and your operations running smoothly. Large areas of concrete flooring are prone to damage or are often in need of relevelling. If the floor is damaged or unsafe, it can not only put your machines at risk, but also pose a threat to the safety of your staff.
Types of floor damage
There are many signs of damage to look out for, and many issues that cause them:
- If your machinery weighs more than the floor can bear, it can cause the floor to sink, so look out for any voids or dips in the ground. In extreme cases, sinkholes can form.
- Scratches and surface damage – Trucks used both indoors and outdoors will collect salt and other debris on their tires, which can be abrasive to your floor. Scratches may seem harmless, but if untreated they will gradually become a more serious problem.
- Sloping floors may be a result of subsidence, which high-bay forklift stacking devices cannot handle well. Friction plays a critical role in several forklift functions, and if your floor is sinking it may be making your machinery work harder. Depending on the location of your business, clay-based soils swell and shrink with fluctuations in moisture and temperature, causing concrete slabs on the surface to sink.
- Concrete floors are porous and, unless a sealant is applied, this can cause damage to worsen quickly. Cracks and pits can occur. Moisture is also an issue for concrete, especially during humid or damp conditions. Cold storage floors can freeze over, bringing additional problems for staff and machinery.
- Cracked slabs or separation at joints will create uneven terrain which can tip your forklift over and put your staff in danger.
Uneven flooring can have a serious impact on all aspects of your warehouse operation:
- Staff health. Forklifts don’t tend to have a high level of suspension, so every bump and pothole driven over will be felt. The small turning circle of a standard forklift means it isn’t always possible to navigate around poor flooring. No matter how ergonomic the design and how comfortable the seat of your forklift, an uneven surface will put strain on the operator’s body.
- Your machines. Uneven flooring is a forklift’s worst enemy. Most forklifts have cushion tires, which are not made for working on uneven terrain. They will be worn out and go flat quicker. These tires will then need replacing more often than expected, increasing your maintenance costs. Forklifts have a low centre of gravity, so minimal clearance areas underneath the mast and chassis are likely to be damaged on hazardous flooring. A clearance check should have been made before purchasing the equipment, however damage to flooring may have occurred since. Sudden impacts can also damage internal components over time.
- Your products. Damaged floors can cause forklifts to vibrate, jostling products, knocking them together, or causing them to fall. If a heavy load falls, this will in turn damage the floor more. Smooth floors support pallets better and in general protect the quality of your products.
Preventions and solutions
Potential issues should always be dealt with as soon as possible. There are many steps you can take to prevent and fix damage to your floor:
- Floor inspections should be routine, especially in areas where heavy lifting machinery is used. Make sure your employees are reporting any hazards they see immediately and that you are dealing with issues as they appear. Floor repairs will be cheaper than the equipment repairs, loss of revenue and closure of premises that would likely result from not fixing it.
- Check joints between concrete slabs – they are weak points and take the pull-away pressure from forklift weight, so are likely to be the first sign of damage.
- Make sure your material handling equipment is suitable for the job. Regularly check them for any potential damage before use, as worn out equipment can make floor damage worse.
- Know the floor load limits of your site. Look for any weak spots and avoid overloading them.
- Sweep floors regularly. Under the weight of your trucks, debris and dirt can cause serious damage to your floor. It won’t take long for a small crack to become a big pit.
- Seal the floor. This can stop the debris and salt from eating into your flooring, ensuring a smooth surface for material handling equipment.
- Ensure good airflow to reduce condensation and other excess moisture.
- Stay alert for signs of subsidence – are there any diagonal cracks along the walls? Is your flooring level? Geobear’s expanding resin solutions can stabilise and relevel the ground beneath slabs. Repairs can be completed in half the time needed for piling solutions, and your business can operate as normal during the process. No excavations are necessary, just some minor drilling which causes minimal dust.
We have stabilised some of the largest spaces in the UK – up to 80,000 square feet of concrete flooring. Get in touch today via our contact form to discuss your requirements and arrange a free consultation.