While forklifts may be crucial vehicles in many industries, they are often found at the center of many work-related accidents and injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, forklift accidents are very common. Between 2011 and 2017, there were more than 60,000 forklift-related injuries – including 614 fatalities – in the United States. Forklifts are incredibly powerful heavy machines that can severely injure workers – including those who are not even driving the forklift at the time of the accident. Understanding why forklift accidents occur is important to decreasing these staggering accident numbers and saving workers’ lives. Some of the top causes of forklift accidents include:
- Recklessness that Leads to Rollover: A forklift accident involving a rollover is often the most fatal kind. In a forklift rollover, the entire vehicle tips over on its side, which can crush anything between it and the ground. Rollovers are typically caused by turning too quickly, uneven loads, turning on an incline, driving with an elevated load, or driving on uneven surfaces. The operator – who should be wearing a seatbelt and all required protective gear – should brace theirself when the forklift starts to tip, leaning away from the point of impact. Once the forklift has stopped moving, if the operator is able to get out of the vehicle safely, they should do so.
- Operator Inattention: When the operator of the forklift is not paying attention, is fatigued, or is driving while distracted, the likelihood of a workplace accident significantly increases. This includes hitting pedestrians working alongside the forklift.
- Lack of Warning Signs and Signals: When driving on the road, there are safety and traffic signals to indicate a need for caution. The same practices should be applied in a workplace that uses forklifts. Proper signs and indicators are essential to preventing accidents, including floor tape to mark where to drive, barriers to protect pedestrians, mirrors to see in blind spots, warning lifts, and crosswalks.
- Insufficient Operator Training: While OSHA mandates that all forklift operators be properly trained and certified before driving one of the machines, many operators are barely trained on site which can lead to devastating accidents. Companies often try to cut corners on essential training to move projects along quickly. This training is necessary, however, to ensure proper use of a forklift and to prevent accidents.
- Falling Loads: If a load is not secured properly and falls off the forklift during transport, serious injuries can occur to those who are nearby. Off-center, damaged, or loose loads can easily fall off a forklift and could crush a pedestrian.
- Forklift Falling Off a Dock or Trailer: Forklifts often need to move between thresholds, which can be very dangerous. Making one wrong move while driving between areas of a warehouse, in and out of semi-trailers, or on and off of a dock can lead to a tragic industrial accident. A forklift can fall to a lower level or into the water easily if a trailer drives away too early, the forklift is on a slippery surface, the dock plate is missing, or there are worn out trailer floors.
- Personnel Falling Off: While not recommended, some personnel may find it convenient to be lifted up on a forklift’s forks to perform a task. This is highly dangerous and can lead to falling from a height. Serious injuries – including head trauma, broken bones, internal bleeding, and impalement – can occur.
- Blocked Sight: When an operator cannot see where they are driving because they have a load that is too tall or they have elevated their forks too high, a multitude of accidents can be caused.
- Mechanical Failure: If a forklift is not properly maintained as required by OSHA standards, the vehicle may breakdown, which can cause a serious accident. Brake lines way be worn, there may be fluid leaks that cause the ground to be slippery, or the tires may be damaged or flat – all of these maintenance issues could cause an accident to occur if not quickly and properly fixed.
- Emissions Poisoning: If using an internal combustion fueled forklift, the operator must be aware of emissions poisoning becoming a hazard. When operated in confined spaces or areas with poor ventilation, forklift vehicle emissions can build up and essentially suffocate the operator. This can quickly lead to brain damage and death. Only operate a forklift in a well-ventilated space.
Houston Forklift Accident Attorneys
Forklift accidents are all too common and can cause severe injuries. If you were injured in a forklift-related incident, as the operator, a worker, or a pedestrian, you may be able to recover significant financial compensation for your injuries. Additionally, all employees have the right to feel safe and protected while performing their jobs. Workers have legal rights and options. There is limited time to act following a workplace injury, so don’t delay contacting us to discuss your case.