There are many advantages of forklifts. They come in handy when moving bulky items at a construction site, plant, business, or warehouse. Forklifts are also useful in offloading and loading carrier vehicles. They are easy to maneuver even in narrow spaces or when turning a corner. According to the Industrial Truck Association (ITA), there are around 856,000 forklifts currently in use across the United States.
The ITA calculates that about 90 percent of such forklifts are likely to be involved in an accident at some point in time during their average lifespan of around eight years. Given these figures, it is not surprising that there are serious chances of forklift injuries at the workplace.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), around 85 people have been involved in fatal forklift accidents annually. Apart from this, 34,900 people have been severely injured annually in forklift incidents.
Federal law stipulates that a forklift operator must be 18 or older. They must also obtain the required training and certification before handling the machine and any related equipment.
Why do Forklift Accidents Occur?
Injuries occur when workers fail to abide by the suggested load and weight limits or if they are careless. Typical reasons for forklift accidents include:
- Overloading (it is a common cause of forklift mishaps).
- The forklift is used to lift people and not cargo.
- Passersby or employees get in the way.
- When objects fall off the forklift.
- The absence of safety mechanisms.
- Riding with an elevated load.
- Mistakenly driving the forklift off a loading dock.
- Lack of regular maintenance that causes steering, transmission, hydraulic system, or brake failures.
- Error on part of the operator or losing control of the machine.
- Driving the forklift at excessive speed.
- Ineffective workplace design, visibility problems or obstructions.
- Insufficient warnings to people about a forklift being used nearby.
- Failure to use the right backing up techniques.
- Improperly parking the forklift.
- Careless driving, attempting stunts or being erratic when driving.
- Failure to brake, accelerate, or turn properly.
- Servicing the forklift poorly.
- Using the forklift to give rides or riding on the load.
- Lack of communication when carrying out shared tasks or when using shared spaces.
- Failure to block wheels properly while on railway cars or semi-trailers.
Forklift Hazards at the Workplace
There are a number of other reasons that cause forklift mishaps. Forklift operators can find it difficult to move the machine around the warehouse pertaining to its layout. Poor visibility can lead to forklifts crashing into one another or into other vehicles, pedestrians, structures, and obstructions. An accident can occur if the operator’s attention drifts even for a moment or if they make any mistake in operating the machine.
An absence of training or failure to comprehend potential dangers can cause unfortunate scenarios in the workplace. The forklift operator will need to focus on the many hurdles that are likely to be found in a construction zone. The tiniest mistake or miscalculation can lead to a dangerous situation.
Watch YouTube Video: Forklift Saftey – 8 Rules – Avoid Accidents & Injuries – Safe Forklift Operations Starts with You! This video provides safety tips on how you can prevent accidents and injuries while operating a forklift.
Hazards of Workplace Design
- State of the loading dock
- Numerous ramps with varying surfaces
- Narrow aisles
- Adverse workplace conditions like odors, noise, poor lighting, dust, and toxic gases
- Messy and crowded aisles
- Excess traffic at the workplace
- Working or walking in proximity to forklift operations
- Obstacles at doors and intersections
Other Safety Issues with Forklifts
- Failure to adhere to safety regulations and rules in the workplace as well as inappropriate maintenance can result in forklift injuries and accidents
- Offering a ride to others on the forklift or on the load
- Not cautioning others around about a forklift in operation
- Failure to communicate properly with multiple forklifts put to use or being extremely close to a shared space
- Inability to exercise caution when turning or backing up the machine and the load
- Not blocking the wheels while the machine is on board a railway car or semi-trailer
- An excessively heavy load
- Pallets in bad condition
- Unstable load or one that blocks visibility
- The pallet is incorrectly stacked or packed
Forklift Mechanical Faults
- Steering malfunction
- Transmission, clutch, shift linkage malfunction
- Brakes that malfunction
- Mast assembly malfunction
- Forklift emissions
- Driver’s view is obstructed or blind spots
- Transmission or hydraulic systems leakage
- Malfunctioning or inadequate safety mechanisms
- An inefficient layout of controls and displays
Minimizing Forklift-Related Pedestrian Accidents
- Determine forklift traffic from pedestrians with the help of separate travel ways or walkways
- Avoid walking under or close to raised forks
- Forklift driver must never over-speed
- Keep workers and general passersby away from areas of forklift operation
- Maintain a safe distance from the forklift
- When required, wear high-visibility clothing
- Pedestrians must indicate their presence to the driver by making eye contact
- While loading the forklift, ensure the driver’s view is not obstructed
- Make sure that the place has adequate lighting and no obstructions
- Do not drive the forklift in the vicinity of high pedestrian traffic such as near entrances, exits, or lunchrooms.
- Exercise caution when approaching doorways, narrow aisles, and blind corners
- At intersections do not forget to use the forklift horn
Forklift Operator Training
Companies using forklifts need to ensure that operators are at least 18 years of age since this is a requirement under federal law. Furthermore, the operators should be provided with thorough training and knowledge of all the necessary safety measures.
The rear wheel steering mechanism in forklifts is what makes it difficult to drive, unlike other vehicles. Therefore, training becomes more critical for forklift operators.
The operator must always carry out a safety check before using the forklift. This will help pinpoint any defects and determine that all controls and systems are functioning well. The horn, lights, and tires must also be checked properly before use.
Watch YouTube Video: 7 Basic Tips to Follow When Operating a Forklift Truck. Watch this video to learn about the proper training on how to operate and drive a forklift.
Employer’s Legal Obligations in California
Every private sector employer in California is responsible for ensuring compliance with the applicable workplace safety laws of the state. These laws are enforced and overseen by Cal/OSHA or the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Any employer that fails to follow the safety orders and standards stipulated by the state may face a significant penalty for non-compliance. For more information, click here.
Forklift Accident Lawyers in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a forklift accident lawyer in Sacramento. When safety regulations are disregarded or overlooked, the consequence can be fatal for those who operate or work near the forklifts. If you or a family member has been injured in a workplace involving a forklift, call me at 916-584-9355 for a free consultation.
I’ve helped many Sacramento and Northern California residents with personal injury and wrongful death cases since 1982. My firm has the expertise to guide you through your case and help you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to.
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