Forklifts are among the most useful pieces of industrial equipment in today’s workplace.
Look around, and you’ll see them everywhere: grocery stores, garden centers, home improvement centers, construction sites, manufacturing facilities and many other places.
According to the Toolbox Topics website, there are nearly 856,000 forklifts in use throughout the United States, and 11 percent of them will be involved in some type of accident every year.
The Industrial Truck Association, a manufacturers group, plans to highlight forklift safety and operator training during National Forklift Safety Day on June 10.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates forklift accidents cause about 34,900 serious injuries and 85 fatalities each year.
Most forklift injuries and fatalities occur on construction sites and in manufacturing facilities. Often they occur when:
- The machine tips over, crushing its operator.
- The forklift crashes after it is driven off the edge of a loading dock.
- Forklifts strike workers or they fall from raised pallets.
- Workers are struck in a back-up collision.
- Workers are crushed between the vehicle and a surface or between two vehicles.
These types of accidents cause injuries such as:
- Concussions and other traumatic brain injuries.
- Broken bones.
- Damage to the back, neck and spinal cord.
- Partial-to-full paralysis.
- Injuries to internal organs.
OSHA standards require all drivers to receive adequate training, evaluation of that training, certification and operating experience. OSHA also requires all forklift operators to be at least 18 years old.
Compliance and Safety LLC, a supplier of safety training videos, has these tips for preventing forklift accidents and injuries:
- Ensure the load is balanced.
- Be careful when making sharp turns.
- Take extra care when working on ramps, uneven surfaces or slopes.
- Drive with the load at its lowest position.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Yield right of way to pedestrians.
- Operate the forklift at the safest speed – not over 5 mph.
If your forklift does start to tip over, stay in your seat. Do not attempt to jump out. Hold on tightly to the steering wheel, and brace yourself against your seat. Keep your body inside the frame of the machine, and lean in the opposite direction of the tip-over.
If you have been hurt in a forklift accident at work, you likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, which pay your medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses and part of your salary. If your injury results in a disability, you may also be eligible to receive a cash settlement for your lost wages as well as compensation for pain and suffering.
You also may wish to bring an action against a third party, such as a property owner or subcontractor.
Be sure to visit a doctor as soon as possible after any accident, even if your injuries do not seem significant. Remember, your medical records may be used as evidence to support your claim.
To prove actual harm, your claim must be supported by evidence, including witness statements, medical exams and health and safety reports. Make sure your employer records the details of your accident, and do not admit responsibility for the accident.