How many ways can forklift chains fail?

Oct 01 2021 | 3 Min. Read Safety

How many ways can forklift mast chains fail? What are the signs operators should look for to prevent these dangerous failures? What could happen when forklift chain fails? Even with normal usage, mast chains will wear out. Overloading, misaligned chain and other problems cause premature wear and damage. Learn what to look for when inspecting chains in this TrainMOR Topics article.

The chains in a forklift’s mast shouldn’t be taken for granted.  These components, along with the forks, lift and carry critical loads in your facility. A chain failure can lead to a dropped load that causes injury, death, and damage to products, machinery, and property.

Chains can last three to five years in many applications, but environmental factors may speed up wear and tear. It's important to take a close look to ensure chains are in safe operating order. This article will explain how to minimize the likelihood of a chain failure with OSHA-mandated pre-operation inspections.

Chain should be inspected, cleaned, and lubricated after every 100 hours of service and more frequently in abusive or cold environments. Chain should be replaced when it has elongated 3%.

Never repair chain by replacing sections.

How to inspect a forklift’s chains

OSHA requires that all forklifts be examined at least daily before being placed in service. Forklifts used round-the-clock must be examined after each shift. [29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7)]

Mast chains should be inspected when the engine is off, with the operator checking for slack tension, cracks, or any other visible defects. Operators should not place their hands inside the mast. Instead, they should use a stick or other device to check chain tension.

What to look for when inspecting forklift chains

Here’s what your operators need to look for:


If a forklift’s chain has stretched more than 3 percent, there will be a 15 percent reduction in strength. The chain should be replaced at this point.

Rust and Corrosion

If the operator sees any rust or corrosion on a chain, it should be replaced. Keeping chains thoroughly lubricated provides maximum protection against rust and corrosion.

Plate Cracking

If a crack is found, the chain should be replaced before the forklift is put back into service.

Protruding or Turned Pins

Pins that are twisted and out of place can result in chain failure. This problem is often caused by lack of lubrication that creates friction between plates and the pins. Lubrication is the preventive.


Your operators should look for wear patterns on pinheads and outside plates. A forklift that continues to operate with a misaligned chain will eventually damage the chain and sheaves, potentially causing the chain to fail.

Chain Anchors and Sheaves

Operators need to inspect anchors for misalignment, damage, or wear. Anchors with worn or broken fingers should be replaced.

Trust TrainMOR to train your operators

Forklift operators need to be trained on a variety of operational and safety-related topics.  In fact, training is mandated by OSHA.  Pre-operation chain inspection is just one of the many topics we cover.

When it comes to training operators on forklift operation and safety, rely on TrainMOR. Contact us for information on our Mobile, Memorable, and Measurable training courses—available online, in classroom and on-site.

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