Forklifts, or powered industrial trucks, are commonly used in factories, warehouses, construction sites, and retail stores to move materials. While they can save companies both time and money in their operations, they present serious risks and dangers. Forklift operators are required to undergo forklift training to ensure proper use and protect both the operator and their co-workers from injury and harm. Here, you’ll find information on:
- Common Causes of Forklift Accidents
- Common Injuries from Forklift Accidents
- Forklift Training
- Forklift Safety Tips
- Forklift Accident Personal Injury Attorneys
Forklift accidents are one of the most common types of workplace accidents and according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), injure more than 20,000 people per year and cause almost 100 fatalities.
Common Causes of Forklift Accidents
- Unsafe Operation: Forklifts operate differently from other vehicles and are steered by their back wheels. When the forklift turns, so does the large rear engine compartment. If a forklift operator fails to account for the distance, the rear engine can hit nearby materials, coworkers, or other people standing in the area.
- Overturns: Forklift overturns or tipping are the most common type of forklift accident. Overturns occur when operators turn too quickly or on an incline, drive with an uneven or unbalanced load, or drive on uneven surfaces. Overturns account for 42% of all fatal forklift accidents.
- Inattention to Surroundings: Forklifts are often operated in busy areas near workers doing other tasks. Forklift accidents can occur when operators are distracted or inattentive to their surroundings.
- Improper Training: OSHA mandates that every lift truck operator goes through proper training. Training requirements include operating instruction, warnings, and precautions for the type of truck as well as how it operates differently from a standard vehicle. Many forklift accidents occur when the operator has not received the proper training prior to use. A study by OSHA found nearly 25% of all forklift accidents are attributed to improper training.
Common Injuries from Forklift Accidents
Because forklifts are heavy, industrial vehicles, an accident with a forklift often results in a more serious workplace injury than other accidents. In fact, although forklift accidents cause 1% of all industrial accidents, they account for 10% of all injuries. Some of the most serious injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Soft-tissue injuries (sprains and torn ligaments, tendons, or muscles)
- Neck and back injuries
- Head injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Workers injured in a forklift accident should seek immediate medical care and consult with a personal injury lawyer to determine if they can seek compensation for their injuries and lost wages.
Forklifts present many potential risks and hazards. A pedestrian can be hit and injured by a forklift; a heavy load can fall off a forklift and hurt a nearby coworker or the operator; the forklift can tip on an uneven surface; and it could even fall between a loading dock and a truck trailer.
Many accidents can be prevented with proper forklift operator training and forklift safety protocols. To address these risks, OSHA established a comprehensive set of standards for the training, maintenance, and operation of these vehicles. The OSHA standards include:
- Companies must offer a training program that includes the general principles of safe operation, the types or classes of vehicles used, and potential hazards associated with operation.
- Operators must know how to do their jobs safely and demonstrate this knowledge in an evaluation.
- Companies must offer both formal and practical training. This may include online training, classes, videos, demonstrations, in-person training courses, and written materials.
- Employers must certify operators have received safety training. Employers are also required to provide training and evaluation once every three years for forklift operators.
If companies falsify forklift certifications or maintenance records, OSHA can seek criminal sanctions to enforce its standards. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure operators are properly trained before operating a forklift.
Forklift Safety Tips
If you are an operator of a forklift, it’s important to keep safety as a priority. When operating a forklift, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Wear proper clothing. Forklift operators should wear the appropriate safety gear including safety shoes, hard hats, and high-visibility shirts or jackets. Loose clothing should be tucked in to avoid it getting caught on any equipment.
- Understand the class of forklift. Not all forklifts are the same. There are seven different classes of forklifts, ranging from small, electric riders to large rough terrain vehicles. Each class is designed for different tasks and functions and has different weight limits and speed restrictions. Know which type you are operating and how to effectively use it.
- Maintain visibility. Most accidents with forklifts occur because of reduced visibility or blind spots. Always make sure you have a 360-degree view. If the load restricts complete visibility, it is recommended to operate the forklift in reverse.
- Follow rider capacity limits. It may be tempting to let a coworker ride on a forklift with you, however, only do so if the forklift has a designated second seat with safety restraints. Extra passengers can fall from the vehicle causing serious injury.
- Install a floor marking system. Using yellow safety tape or paint, implement a floor marking system that designates areas for pedestrians and areas for forklifts. Identify areas with hazards such as physical barriers, areas prone to falling items, or areas with flammable materials. A floor marking system provides workers with a visual warning of potential safety hazards.
- Inspect the forklift prior to operating. Every morning prior to operation, inspect the forklift to ensure the vehicle and its equipment are safe and operable. Test the brakes, lights, steering wheel, and horn as well as the tire pressure and fluid levels.
Most forklift accidents are preventable with proper training and safety guidelines. If you are an employee at a company that utilizes forklifts for its operations, be sure to advocate for training courses and safety regulations.
Forklift Accident Personal Injury Attorneys
If you were injured in a forklift accident at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and, possibly, additional financial compensation under Pennsylvania law. Depending upon who employs the forklift driver, who was operating the forklift, who trained the forklift driver and/or who services and maintains the forklift, you may also have access to compensation for your pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures and other non-economic losses and damages.
The bottom line is that forklift accidents can be devastating, so it’s important to take quick action and call the best forklift accident law firm right away.
The accident and injury legal team at Georgelis Injury Law Firm is here to help. We have handled numerous bodily injury claims involving forklift accidents and earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for our Lancaster clients victimized in such accidents. In fact, our attorneys have recovered more than $60 million for our clients in injury cases, and we have won over 99% of our cases.
If you’ve suffered a work-related injury due to a forklift, call us today at 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free review of your case and question and answer session. We never charge clients for our time, and we only are entitled to a fee if we recover money for you.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by calling the firm that has been voted the best law firm in Lancaster County for 8 years running as part of Lancaster County Magazine’s “Best of Lancaster” annual survey—Georgelis Injury Law Firm.