Forklift Accidents and Injuries
FORKLIFT ACCIDENTS AND INJURIES AT WORKSITES, AND HOW TO PREVENT THEM
According to industry experts, the main cause of forklift accidents and injuries in the U.S. are a result of tipovers. In fact, according to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), which represents the manufacturers of lift trucks and their suppliers who do business in Canada, the United States or Mexico, 42 percent of all forklift accidents involved in construction accident lawsuits are caused by a tipover.
According to Association data, there are approximately 855,900 forklifts in operation in the U.S. at the present time. Their data shows the useful lifespan of one of these powerful machines is 8 years. The ITA also estimates that approximately 90 percent of all forklifts in operation today will be involved in some type of accident before the vehicle is put out of commission. Therefore, by their own statistics, more than 750,000 forklifts will be involved in some type of accident at worksites in the next 8 years.
"This is a very frightening number," Howard Raphaelson, partner in the New York construction accident law firm of Raphaelson & Levine. "A forklift operator's chances of being injured on the job are very high, which means more needs to be done to prevent these vehicles from tipping over."
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates there are about 85 forklift fatalities in the U.S. every year. Add to that, 34,900 serious injuries and 61,800 non-serious injuries. In addition to tipovers, according to OSHA, forklift accidents also occur when operators are crushed between vehicle and a surface (25 percent), when workers are crushed between two vehicles (11 percent), when workers are struck or run over by a forklift (10 percent), when workers are struck by falling material (8 percent) and when workers fall from a platform on the forks (4 percent).
OSHA data reveals that fatalities involving forklifts occur most often in manufacturing facilities (42 percent), followed by construction sites (23.8 percent), wholesale trade businesses (12.5 percent), transportation providers (11 percent), retail trade stores (9 percent) and in mining operations. (1.2 percent).
According to the ITA, studies show that most accidents could have been prevented by better training. The ITA also points out that training can reduce the severity of an accident.
"Working with a forklift requires constant attention to the hazards in front, above and around the area of operation," Raphaelson said. "Despite the best intentions of workers, safety agencies and employers, the possibility for accidents to occur always exists."
The ITA strongly advises forklift operators, "to take precautions to minimize accident potential." To minimize the incidence of accidents involving forklifts, the Association recommends that contractors, developers, owners and operators do the following:
- Verify that the charge on the forklift is adequate to the task (at least 1/2 full for normal loads and 3/4 full for heavy loads)
- Survey the travel route before making a lift to familiarize operators with any potential obstacles.
- Warn people in the area that forklift operations are underway.
- Arrange for a spotter if there is any potential obstacle that could have serious consequences if hit by the forklift, or blind spots along the way.
- If the operator's vision is impaired due to the size of the load, a spotter is essential for safe completion of the lift or if the forklift must be driven backwards.
- Most of all, drivers must be on the lookout for any behavior that could jeopardize the operation such as exceeding the load center or the forklift maximum weight.