Forklift Safety Saves Lives
December 18th, 2017
When you think about dangerous jobs, people working in warehouses and on loading docks probably don’t spring to mind. You may immediately think of those working with hazardous chemicals, working high above the ground on construction sites, or working with electricity. However, forklifts present a greater risk than many realize—particularly when appropriate safety measures are neglected.
Each year, about nearly 100,000 forklift accidents result in tens of thousands of serious injuries and nearly 100 fatalities.
Most Common Forklift Fatalities
While the leading causes differ from year to year, a handful of accident types are responsible for the vast majority of forklift accident fatalities.
- Crush injuries, including
- a worker being crushed by a forklift that tips over
- a worker being crushed between the forklift and a surface
- a worker being crushed between the forklift and another vehicle
- Being struck by falling materials
- Falling from a platform on a forklift
- Being struck or run over by a forklift
More than 75% of these fatalities take place in the construction and manufacturing industries.
Preventing Forklift Accidents
Like most on-the-job injuries, most forklift accidents are avoidable. Unfortunately, many employers neglect training, fail to implement and enforce safe practices for operation of the forklift, or look the other way when employees cut corners. Each year, forklift safety violations are among the top ten types of citations issued by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). In 2016, OSHA issued 2,860 forklift-related citations.
Safety measures on the part of employers, forklift operators, and other employees working in the immediate area can prevent most injuries and fatalities.
Forklift Safety for Employers
Employers are required to implement training and evaluation for forklift drivers, and to allow only certified operators to use the lifts. Complying with this requirement and ensuring that every forklift operator is fully trained, certified, and following procedures is critical to maintaining a safe working environment. Other steps an employer can take to prevent forklift accidents include:
- Designating clear paths and areas for forklift operation
- Implementing floor marking systems and signage
- Posting warnings for pedestrians in forklift operation areas
- Establishing and posting speed limits and other traffic controls
- Regularly inspecting forklifts to ensure that vehicles are in safe working order
- Ensuring that forklifts are used only for appropriate materials at safe weights
The employer is also responsible for ensuring that both forklift operators and non-operator employees in the area are taking safety precautions. However, the large number of OSHA citations and serious accidents year after year makes it clear that not all employers will take appropriate safety measures. Forklift operators and other employees can create a safer work environment for themselves and their co-workers by taking precautions such as:
- Making sure the load is balanced and fully secured before moving the forklift
- Keeping the load as low as possible
- Always maintaining a clear line of sight in the direction the forklift is traveling
- Using the horn in areas where pedestrians or other vehicles may be present
- Exercising care when walking in areas where forklifts operate and maintaining a safe distance
- Testing critical equipment such as brakes, steering and horn before loading the forklift
- Observe weight limitations for the vehicle and any attachments
- Wear appropriate safety gear
Forklift Injuries and Fatalities
The best time to think about forklift safety is before an accident happens. Unfortunately, some employers and some forklift operators disregard safety considerations. If you have been injured in a forklift accident or have lost a loved one, you are likely entitled to compensation. The circumstances of the accident and the injured person’s relationship to the responsible party will determine the appropriate course of action.
For example, if a forklift operator is injured while working directly for an employer in the employer’s warehouse, worker’s compensation will typically cover that accident. However, there are often third-party claims available that may lead to recovery in excess of what worker’s compensation provides. Some examples include:
- When the forklift operator is employed by a different company than the injured worker
- When defective equipment was partially or wholly responsible for the accident
- When the job site conditions contribute to or cause the accident, and the site is owned and operated by someone other than the injured worker’s employer
Determining liability can be complicated, so it’s in your best interest to talk to an experienced forklift injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident, to ensure that missteps and oversights don’t limit your right to recover.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 2005. He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017-2019, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give educational talks and media interviews regarding personal injury law issues..