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Common Causes in Forklift Accidents

Common Causes in Forklift Accidents

There are many common causes of forklift accidents. In yet another industrial fatality involving a forklift, a man has died in Oklahoma City after being pinned by the vehicle as he was loading granite at a local business. The man was driving the forklift when it overturned. The accident occurred in the early afternoon. Emergency services tried to free the man but, unfortunately, he did not survive.

An overturning forklift is probably the most catastrophic event that can happen to a forklift operator and unfortunately, one of the common causes of forklift accidents. Other top causes of forklift-related injuries and fatalities are being struck by a forklift, and being crushed by the forklift or a falling load. Here, we look at the reasons why forklift accidents occur and how to prevent them.

What Are the Main Causes of Injuries When Using Forklifts?

The main causes of injuries when using forklifts are:

  • Overturned Forklift: Occurs when a lift tips over and crushes the operator and/or bystanders
  • Worker or Bystander Hit by Forklift: Occurs when a lift operator inadvertently strikes a coworker or bystander
  • Fall: Occurs when a lift operator falls from the truck

Proper forklift safety training can limit the risk of lift accidents and associated injuries. By providing workers with comprehensive forklift safety training, your business can teach its workers how to correctly operate a lift now and guard against lift accidents and injuries.

What Is the Most Common Type of Lift Truck Accident?

OSHA states that the majority of lift truck accidents could be prevented if operators received adequate training. Yet, insufficient training or no training at all represents a leading cause of lift truck accidents nationwide.

Along with inadequate training, rollovers, falling loads and getting crushed by a lift are among the most common types of lift truck accidents. These accidents can be fatal, but they may be prevented if lift operators know how to identify and mitigate workplace hazards.

Can a Worker Be Fired for After a Forklift Accident?

A forklift operator can be fired following an accident. If an operator ignores forklift safety rules, he or she may face legal ramifications after an accident, too.

In the aftermath of a forklift accident, it is crucial for an employer to conduct a thorough review of the incident. The lift operator may be sent home following the incident and should not be allowed to lift until the review is complete.

Who Is Held Responsible for a Forklift Accident?

Ultimately, an employer is responsible for a forklift accident, regardless of why it happens. It is an employer’s responsibility to verify that a lift operator has completed an OSHA-approved forklift safety training course and that the operator’s certification is up to date. If the employer did not comply with OSHA requirements, it could face fines and other legal penalties.

Forklift Accident Facts

There are nearly 100,000 forklift workers who are injured on the job every year, with about 85 annual deaths. With statistics like 1 in 10 forklifts being involved in an accident, it’s not unlikely that it could happen to you, or in your workplace. That’s where specific safety protocols and training comes into play. Forklift accidents are not uncommon, but they are preventable. All it takes is focus placed on preventative factors that involve the workplace and how it’s organized, the condition of the forklifts, and operator competency to prevent accidents.

Read our tips below for how the various components of your workplace can cause accidents, and how to prevent them from happening.

Workplace Design Factors

Workplace design factors include things like having to drive on slopes that are too steep, soft or uneven ground, negotiating curbs, or uneven edges and slippery surfaces (oil, grease, water, ice). Driving in narrow aisles is a tricky task, and is only for specific types of forklifts and their trained operators. Obstructions at intersections can lead to forklift accidents, especially when there are too many on-duty forklifts in an area or if there are factors that limit visibility and awareness, like loud noises, dust, and poor lighting. Forklift operators need to be highly aware of their surroundings and need to inspect for any hazards like these that can lead to forklift accidents. Forklift certification teaches workers exactly how to perform a thorough inspection of the working environment, what to look for, and how to know when it is safe and unsafe to perform duties with a forklift.

Behavioral and Operational Factors

Excessive speed (especially around corners), carrying loads at an unsafe height or driving with too heavy or a poorly balanced load can all make a forklift turn over. Improper backing up, turning, braking and accelerating can lead to accidents, in addition to the improper use of warnings, and poor communication between workers and other drivers in shared spaces. Then there are factors like horsing around, carrying passengers or stunt driving that can lead to overturns and other forklift accidents. Forklift accidents can be prevented, but only with the right training in place. Forklift training stresses the importance of driving a forklift properly, and how to operate a forklift in various situations and environments.

Work Organization

Here, we are talking about improper training of forklift operators, not matching the right driver with the right truck or pressure to meet production deadlines. When speed and productivity are the priorities on a worksite, all workers’ lives are put at risk. Additionally, a lack of proper tools, attachments and accessories with forklifts, outdated forklifts, and poor maintenance of lift trucks can affect the safety of the workplace and lead to forklift accidents.

Dealing with heavy machinery like forklifts requires that safety is the top concern, and that proper protocols and safety precautions are put into place before any talk of improving efficiency and bottom lines can occur. Forklift training from is OSHA-compliant and covers all of the regulations and procedures needed to avoid forklift accidents. An added bonus is often a more efficient, productive, and positive environment with good employee morale.

Additional Tips to Prevent Forklift Accidents

Other factors that can affect workplace safety and potentially cause forklift accidents are the conditions and design features of the forklifts themselves, the qualities of a load, and a working environment that involves pedestrians and lots of activity.

Let’s go deeper into these below with the hazards involved and safety practices to consider:

Forklift Mechanical Features and Conditions

  • Malfunctioning brakes
  • Malfunctioning steering
  • Malfunctioning of the clutch, transmission, or shift linkage
  • Malfunctioning of the mast system
  • Leaking of the hydraulic systems or transmission
  • Malfunctioning or missing safety devices
  • Emissions
  • Blind spots
  • Poor layout of the displays and controls

Load Quality

  • Poorly stacked pallets
  • Damaged pallets
  • Too heavy loads
  • Unstable loads
  • Blocked vision caused by loads

Working Around Pedestrians

  • Create separation between pedestrians and forklift traffic
  • Restrict pedestrians from areas where forklifts are operating
  • Maintain a safe distance from forklifts at all times
  • Make forklift drivers aware of your position in a work area
  • Keep the work area well-lit and remove all obstructions
  • Be careful when driving near blind corners, narrow aisles, and doorways
  • Wear high visibility clothing
  • Limit forklift travel speed
  • Don’t walk near or under raised forks
  • Don’t restrict drivers’ vision with stacked loads

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Hard hats, reflective vests, and other PPE must be worn in work areas where forklifts are used. Employers must provide their workers with appropriate PPE. If workers are provided with PPE that is damaged or worn-down, this equipment must be replaced immediately.

Forklift operators must always wear a seatbelt. If a seatbelt is damaged or not working properly, a lift operator should notify their manager immediately.

Forklift Parking

Forklifts should be parked exclusively in designated areas. The e-brake for a lift should always be set any time the truck is parked, even if the vehicle is not parked on an incline

Forklift Training and Certification

Nobody emerges from the womb knowing how to correctly reverse a forklift, balance a load or park a forklift. One of the main causes of fatalities resulting from a forklift overturning is the driver bailing out. This is a huge training issue because the correct reaction is to remain seated and keep all body parts within the protective canopy of the vehicle. Although the instinctive reaction is to jump from an overturning forklift, training teaches operators the right way to handle this accident, while protecting their life. Forklift certification also covers the other common forklift accidents, how to avoid them, how to perform daily equipment inspections, how to assess the work area, and how to handle loads properly. The result of the knowledge this training covers is a safer workplace, improved efficiency, and an improved bottom line for employers. Everyone wins.

We offer the following classes by themselves or together as a complete Training Kit:

  • Warehouse Forklifts: Classes 1, 4, and 5
  • Pallet Jacks and Order Pickers: Classes 2 and 3
  • Rough Terrain Forklifts: Class 7

When you purchase initial forklift training with us, you also receive all three-year renewals free for life, in addition to English and Spanish options, and easy online access to all modules, handouts, checklists, and testing guides.

The forklift driver is the most important safety feature on the vehicle. Forklift certification can help you make sure that your operators are correctly trained and certified to OSHA standards. There are many common causes of forklift accidents, but don’t skip on safety.

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