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    Every year, there are almost 100 deaths and over 34,000 injuries due to forklift (powered industrial truck) accidents (source).

    According to OSHA, many of these are the result of “improper equipment” and a lack of training. In other words, these accidents could be avoided. The nameplates, also called data plates (the two terms are used interchangeably), on a forklift are an important piece of this safety puzzle. They indicate exactly how much load can be put on a forklift taking into account things like truck weight and attachments.

    Many forklift accidents are a result of the truck tipping due to excessive weight, yet a basic understanding of how to read the weight requirements could prevent injury.

    Most resources online are confusing, filled with jargon and OSHA codes – so we wanted to make a guide you could easily understand.

    Share this with your company, forklift operators, or anyone involved with safety in your industrial workspace*.

    Forklift Nameplate Basics

    A forklift’s nameplate (also referred to as a data plate, weight plate or capacity load plate) provides integral information about the machine’s capacity, fuel type, and weight.

    What is a data plate on a forklift?

    These plates are a requirement of OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.178(a)(3) and must be displayed on all forklifts approved for service. The data plate must include data and approval provided from a nationally recognized testing laboratory that has verified the listed specifications for the forklift. The initial data plate is installed by the manufacturer and it is important for any operator to review, verify, and update information as needed. 

    The forklift data plate can be found on the instrument panel near the operating controls. It is the responsibility of the operator to understand the capabilities of each forklift and to properly maintain the data plate to ensure it is legible and complete. Recommended best practices include conducting proper training, using durable and corrosion-resistant nameplates, and documenting important information related to the forklift operation and maintenance based on the specifications. It is also important never to operate a forklift with a severely damaged or missing nameplate. 

    The forklift data plate can be found on the instrument panel near the operating controls:

    forklift data plate
    A nameplate found on the instrument panel of a Nissan FX5 Forklift – Image from Logismarket

    Workers and operators can refer to the nameplate to ensure safe and efficient operation.

    Specifications Commonly Indicated On A Forklift Data Plate

    While the content of each forklift data plate may differ based on the specific type of forklift, there is some standard information that is typically found.

    What does the nameplate on a forklift tell you?

    Major sections of a nameplate include information about the equipment components, parts, weights, and loads. The data plate must also include a designation of compliance with the requirements of ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 “Safety Standard for Low and High Lift Trucks.” The forklift capacity plate can tell you a great deal about how to safely service the equipment and how best to prepare your staff and facility for efficient operation.

    This example of a used (worn) data plate specifies a load the forklift can safely address when fitted with an attachment or operating at various mast angles.

    this is a forklift capacity plate
    A used (worn) forklift nameplate to show attributes found.

    On most plates you may find any of the following attributes:

    Basic Information

    • Brand
    • Model
    • Serial Number
    • Forklift Type

    Parts & Components Information

    • Mast Type
    • Front Tire Tread
    • Tire Sizes
    • Tire Type

    Weight & Load Information

    • Truck Weight
    • Battery Weight
    • Attachments Included In Weight Calculation
    • Back Tilt
    • Forward Tilt
    • Load capacity
    • Maximum Lift height
    • Load center distances
    • Down rating of lift capacity (if mast is fitted)
    • Down rating for attachments (as specified on capacity plate)

    Understanding Forklift Data Plate Terms & Definitions

    While we’re not going to cover the self-explanatory terms here (like ‘serial number’), below are important forklift plate terms and definitions to know.

    Most importantly, this information is telling you how much load the forklift can withstand (before tipping, or other hazardous conditions). Your operators need to know the below information.

    1. Understand The Forklift Components & Weight

    Mast: This is the type of mast your forklift has. FSV or ‘triple’ as shown above is the most common. All mast types of descriptions can be found here.

    Attachments: This section lists the attachments on your forklift being included in the truck weight listed. If an attachment is on the truck, but not listed, you need to take that into account to determine the total truck weight (without a load) OR load weight, if the attachment is part of the forks.

    Truck Weight w/o Battery: This gives the weight of the truck minus the weight of the battery. The battery will have its weight stamped on it. The weight of the truck and battery equals the total weight of the forklift. Useful, so you can recalculate the total truck weight if a different battery is swapped.

    Truck Weight: The weight of the forklift without a load. Some weight plates will list the total truck weight including the battery, and others may list truck weight without the battery.

    2. Understand The Lifting & Load Variables

    Max Lifting Height: The maximum lift height based on load centers.

    Load Center: This number indicates how far forward from the mast the balancing point of the load is. The further it is from the center, the less weight it can withstand.

    Back Tilt: The maximum degree of back tilt (tilting the load towards the operator). On this example data plate, the maximum weight is calculated assuming no tilt is applied.

    Forward Tilt: If your lift’s arms tilt forward, the maximum degree of forward tilt. Remember, the more you tilt the mast forward, the less weight it can withstand.

    3. Calculate And Understand The Maximum Capacity

    The above information is everything used to arrive at what we really want to know: the maximum capacity – or simply, “how heavy can the thing be I pick up?”

    Maximum Capacity: How heavy the load can be, based upon the other calculations (mast height, load center, and front tilt). As you can see on the example data plate, it is listed given a few variables.

    the max capacity on a forklift data plate

    It is saying, if the mast is extended upwards 189 inches, the load center is 24 inches from the mast – the maximum capacity is 4,800 lbs.

    So remember – the maximum capacity is not a static number, but changes depending upon the other factors.

    Try a forklift capacity calculator like this one to calculate based upon custom variables.

    4. Be Aware Of Other Safety Related Information

    Tire Size & Type: The tire size does not factor into calculating capacity, but it is provided to ensure proper replacement tires are installed. It also indicates pounds per square inch for optimal inflation.

    How the forklift capacity information should be used

    Understanding the weight, capacity and load limitations of a forklift is an important first step for safe operation, but there are a number of additional considerations. Proper training of forklift operators and maintenance personnel is necessary to ensure that they understand how this data should be used in the course of their work. One example of a recommended best practice is reviewing the data plate at the start of every shift while taking into account which attachment is installed on the lift truck that day. This will give a more accurate picture of the load size that the forklift can safely lift at the current time. 

    Proper maintenance can also have a noticeable impact on forklift capacity, and it is important for maintenance staff to understand how the wear of the forks and attachments can affect safe maximum lifting capacities. It is common in many cases for maintenance workers to actually recalculate load capacities based on wear, and place this updated information on the equipment with an additional data plate that complements the original one from the manufacturer. Operators must be knowledgeable of the balance between capacity, load center, and lift height to properly maintain their equipment and reduce the likelihood of any safety incidents. 

    How To Avoid Fines & Serious Injuries

    While understanding weight specifications is critical to safety, you can’t read a nameplate that is worn, doesn’t exist or hasn’t been updated.

    The data plates must meet respective industry regulations and standards. What may seem like minor infractions could lead to penalties, costly fines and even worse – injury or death.

    While this guide provides an overview of reading weight plate data, you should be familiar with OSHA’s health and safety documents for forklifts (PIT or powered industrial trucks).

    For example:

    • If your lift truck is modified or an attachment is added, the data plates need to be updated as well.
    • If lighter batteries other than those provided by the manufacturer are used, this changes the weight. Using a smaller battery invalidates the lifting capacity as stated on the data plates. Therefore you will need to recalculate.

    It’s mandatory that every lift truck has a nameplate. Have you purchased a used forklift or not checked your fleet recently?

    Here are common things to check for:

    □ Do they all have the data plates?

    □ Is the important safety information not worn off and legible?

    □ Are the plates still securely attached, and not falling off?

    □ Have attachments been added, or your battery been replaced?

    Metalphoto of Cincinnati is a leading manufacturer of custom nameplates for all types of industrial applications.

    Our Metalphoto anodized aluminum nameplates are ideal for variable data and barcodes, and remain readable for the life of your equipment. Contact MPC for additional information or request a free sample:

    aluminum forklift capacity data plate

    *This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the need to reference and understand OSHA’s official safety guidelines. Please refer to OSHA, safety requirements of your forklift manufacturer, and the resources below.


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