Many commercial industries use forklifts and power lift trucks in their daily operation to lift and move heavy loads on storage shelves and semi-tractor-trailers for transport.
Unfortunately, according to statistics, hundreds of workers have lost their lives over the last decade in forklift accidents. This web page will address this pervasive problem as we identify the most valuable forklift accident statistics.
Did you suffer severe injuries in a forklift accident, or have you lost a loved one through a preventable wrongful death at work? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can help you ensure your family receives the financial compensation they deserve.
Contact our law office today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All information you share with our law office remains confidential through an attorney-client relationship.
Many factories, warehouses, construction sites, and distribution centers hire lift truck operators to lift heavy pallets, avoiding unnecessary manual labor. Forklift operators are industry professionals, trained in operating the equipment and avoiding potential dangers that are inherently problematic when moving heavy pallets and bins.
Forklift Accident Statistics in the United States
Currently, available data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data reveals that 614 workers were killed in forklift-related accidents between 2011 and 2017. During that time, an additional 7000 non-fatal forklift injuries were reported resulting in time away from work.
In 2017, the BLS reported 74 forklift-injury-related accidents, broken down by non-road accidents (20), struck by powered vehicles (13) struck by falling objects (12) falling to a lower level (11), and pedestrian/vehicle accident cases (9).
Other forklifts/fork truck accidents statistics involve:
- On average, forklift accidents account for approximately 85 deaths each year in the US
- BLS reported 9050 severe non-fatal workplace illnesses and injuries involving industrial trucks occurring in 2017 and nearly 8000 injuries and illnesses in 2018 and 8140 and 2019
- Data reveals that the useful lifespan of a forklift is approximately eight years
- OSHA reports that approximately 25% of all forklift accidents are caused by insufficient driver training
- Operators overturning their industrial trucks were likely making an improper turn, traveling faster than the speed limit, or driving with an elevated load
- Nearly 20% of all industrial truck accidents involved standing employees
- OSHA mandates that operators wear their forklift safety seat belts when available
- Forklifts are not designed to elevate other workers standing on the equipment’s forks
- Data shows that forklift operators receiving proper training improve their performance scores by more than 60%
- Many forklift accidents with forklift fatalities were caused when the powered industrial truck driver was driving to another location while the cargo was elevated
- Approximately 36% of all forklift fatalities involved pedestrians
- Approximately 62,000 non-severe injuries occur every year from an industrial truck accident
- Approximately 24% of all industrial truck accidents involve overturning
- In 2018, the BLS reported 1700 non-fatal injuries involving operators between 25 and 34 years of age
- Nearly 5400 forklift-related injury cases were reported in companies involved in utilities, transportation, and warehouses
- In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the three leading forklift accident injuries as muscle tears/sprains (1490), bruises and contusions (1570), and fractures (1710)
- Forklift operators between 55 and 64 years old at the highest fatality rate of any age group in the United States
- In 2019, more powered industrial forklifts were rented in September (the most popular month) than in January (the least popular month)
- About 25% of all loading dock workplace injuries involve forklifts and lumbar service employees (third-party workers)
- Approximately 10% of all physical injuries in the workplace are caused by an industrial truck accident
- Fewer rough terrain forklifts were rented in 2018 than traditional forklift units used on concrete and asphalt surfaces
- The second Tuesday in June is National Forklift Safety Day in America
- Forklifts are involved in more workplace regulation citations than other problems, including hazard communication, portable fire extinguishers, lockout/tag-out problems, and industrial safety guards
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) statistics reveal that about 70% of all forklift accidents could be prevented in the United States had employers developed and enforced more stringent training policies.
Fatal Forklift Accident Statistics
Statistics released by the Industrial Truck Association reveal that approximately 11% of all lift trucks in the United States are involved in accidents annually. BLS data shows that approximately 100 workers are killed every year by forklifts, averaging 87 fatalities annually.
The number of deaths every year remains constant, with 85 deaths reported in 2018, 74 deaths in 2017, 96 deaths in 2015, and 94 deaths in 1995.
Average fatal forklift accidents statistics include:
- Approximately 42% of all fatal forklift accidents involve being crushed by the vehicle when it’s tipping over
- More than 25% of all fatal forklift accidents involve the victim crushed between a surface and the vehicle
- Following workplace warning signs and forklift safety could ensure no one is harmed by falling pallets or crushed by the lifting equipment
- Nearly 11% of all fatal forklift accidents involve the victim being crushed between 2 vehicles
- Approximately 10% of all forklift fatalities involve being run over or struck by the power lift
- Nearly 8% of all forklift accident-related fatalities are caused when the victim’s struck by falling material, objects, or cargo
- Over 4% of all accidental industrial deaths are caused by the victim falling from the lift platform
Most fatal forklift accidents occur in the manufacturing industry (42.5%), followed by the construction industry (23.8%), the wholesaling industry (12.5%), the transportation industry (11.0%), the retail trade industry (9.0%), and the mining industry (1.2%).
Every Forklift Accident Type
Catastrophic accidents occurring in warehouses, distribution centers, and construction sites involving industrial trucks are usually the result of operator error or lack of sufficient training.
Forklift Rollovers – Industrial lift operators must wear their seatbelts at all times in the event of forklift overturns when turning on an incline, turning too quickly, driving on uneven surfaces, with elevated loads, driving on an incline, or abruptly moving the mast.
Pedestrian Impacts – Industrial lift operators typically undertake strains and crowded areas where other employees may be on foot. Any inattention, fatigue, carelessness, or distracted driving could harm or kill workers and others close to the equipment.
Lack of Operator Training – OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) requires every industrial lift driver to be certified and trained before operating the machinery and become familiar with the established safety policies and procedures on a safe industrial lift operation.
Falling Loads – Many lift trucks are designed to carry pallets, boxes, small items, and raw materials that might not be adequately secured. The driver, pedestrians, or other workers could be severely harmed or killed by falling loads.
Forklift Falling Off a Trailer or Dock – Forklifts must often cross a threshold from a semi-tractor-trailer onto the dock creating a catastrophic problem if the procedure is performed unsafely. The industrial lift can fall off a dock or trailer if the floor is slippery, the trailer or semi rolls away, the trailer floor is damaged or worn, or there is no proper dock plate installed.
Falling from Forklift Tines – All pedestrian employees should avoid standing on the forks (tines) when elevated to avoid catastrophic forklift injuries, including internal bleeding, fractures, head trauma, or fork impalement.
Blocked Sight – The industrial lift carries its cargo, pallets, or load in the front on the forks that block the operator’s visibility. The operator must remain aware of any rear or side blind spot to prevent colliding with the building structures, equipment, products, or other workers.
Mechanical Failures – The employer must ensure that the equipment is maintained regularly to avoid any industrial truck safety issues, breakdowns, or hazardous work conditions due to damaged or worn tires/brakes, malfunctioning steering mechanisms, Missing safety equipment, and guard devices, or leaking fluids creating a slippery surface.
Emissions Poisoning – Many industrial trucks are powered by internal combustion engines fed by gasoline, diesel, or propane, creating an emissions (carbon monoxide) poisoning hazard to workers and the industrial truck operator. Emissions poisoning is often the result of excessively idling the forklift, leaking exhaust, incorrect fuel mixtures, working in a confined or enclosed space, and poor ventilation.
Crushed by Forklift – Crushing hazards remain the leading cause of pedestrian-related forklift fatalities in powered industrial forklift-related accidents. The worker can become pinned between a fixed object and the industrial truck if the driver is distracted, typically resulting in a fatality. Other causes include inattentively backing up, loose material falling from pallets, or crushing injuries caused by a tilting mast.
Forklift operators must understand every technical aspect of their job to avoid catastrophic accidents resulting in injuries or death. Some of these technical aspects include the vehicle center of gravity, the load center, and the stability triangle.
A better understanding of the physics of lifting or moving an industrial truck can minimize centrifugal force problems when traveling too fast, driving over an elevated ground slowly, tilting the mast, or lifting a heavy load.
Forklift Safety: OSHA Self-Reported Forklift Accident Injuries
While many forklift accidents in the warehouse industry involve overexertion, strains, sprains, and contusions are the most common consequence of falling accidents involving forklifts. The most self-reported injuries occurring in forklift-related accidents include:
- Fractures (25%)
- Contusions (24%)
- Lacerations (10%)
- Strains and sprains (4% %)
- Amputation (<1%)
- Undefined (37%)
These accidents occur in various industries, including motor vehicle manufacturing, cold storage, short and long-haul freight transportation, wholesale retail industry, and wholesale vehicle/machine parts.
Common Forklifts Used in Every Industry
For the last century, forklifts have revolutionized numerous commercial businesses requiring lifting and moving heavy, large objects between locations. Industrial truck trucks are often indispensable tools on construction sites, recycling centers, dockyards, and warehouses.
The most common industrial truck types used in commercial industries include:
Counterbalance Forklift – Many companies use the counterbalance industrial truck that does not extend its arms when lifting and moving heavyweight objects. Some counterbalance forklifts have three wheels instead of four, allowing the operator to make quick maneuvers and circle turns.
Industrial Forklift – This large-capacity industrial truck works as a telehandler and warehouse forklift, reaching challenging angles while lifting heavy payloads high off the ground using vehicle stability equipment. These units typically have a maximum lift capacity of 30,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds.
Order Picker Forklift – Much like a walkie stacker, these units can easily pick and deliver pallets and materials on storage shelves at heights up to 32 feet. These forklifts were designed to pick units off the shelf instead of lowering a full pallet or load to the floor.
Pallet Jack – These compact manual or power lift trucks allow the lifting of small loads in tight spaces. A low-cost pallet Jack is used in nearly every industry involving warehousing, retailing, and distribution.
Reach Fork Truck – The vehicle stability legs on the front of the industrial truck allows the extension of its lift’s forks to reach in and load or unload heavy loads in indoor environments.
Rough Terrain Forklift – With a straight mast, the rough terrain industrial truck stabilizes lifts on uneven surfaces on outdoor construction sites using pneumatic tires to navigate Rocky terrain. These units typically have a maximum lift capacity between 6000 pounds and 8000 pounds.
Side Loader Forklift – manufacturing facilities and steel service centers typically use side-loading forklifts when handling bulky and heavy items. These units travel sideways down narrow or tight aisleways to load and unload materials.
Telehandler Forklift – The telescopic arm of the industrial truck works as a boom or crane lifting to 5500 pounds nearly 19 feet above the surface. Its design allows extended reaching areas at odd angles or tight spaces.
Walkie Stacker – These odd-looking utility lifters allow the employee to walk behind the unit while steering the device like an oversized pallet Jack but with better maneuverability and speed. Most walkie-stacker forklifts can lift up to 4000 pounds.
Warehouse Forklift – These forklifts are highly recognizable with their twin forks and golf cart-style open cab. The highly reversible forklift can lift from 5000 pounds maximum up to 25,000 pounds.
Forklift Accident Causes
Forklifts are heavy machinery used in warehouses, distribution centers, and construction sites to lift heavy materials, pallets, and cargo. Unfortunately, operator error or other hazardous conditions could lead to severe forklift injuries or fatalities that could have been prevented had workers followed the established safety protocols.
Typical causes of lift truck accidents include:
Operating the machinery recklessly – The lift truck operator may drive too fast, improperly position their forks while lifting and carrying a load, or drive distracted at an intersection inside the warehouse or distribution center. Reckless operations may result from insufficient training.
Failing to immobilize the tractor-trailer – The lift truck operator and the truck driver is responsible for ensuring that the trailer wheels are chocked before any cargo loading and unloading are performed. Unchocked wheels could cause the truck driver to pull away from the dock while the lift truck operator enters or exits the trailer.
Insufficient maintenance and inspections – The lift truck operator and their employer must ensure sufficient maintenance is performed routinely. The driver must inspect the equipment before any operation to ensure it is in proper working order. Any unsafe forklift should be removed from service until sufficient repairs are made.
Defective machinery – Powered lift manufacturers are legally liable any time they make, distribute, or sell equipment with product design defects or flaws that could lead to severe bodily harm, property damage, or fatality.
Missing safeguards – Fork manufacturers install safeguards as an injury prevention measure to avoid injuries and death. In many cases, forklift accidents result in catastrophic injuries resulting from inadequate safety gear and rollover (forklift overturns) protection equipment that prevents cargo from falling or the equipment tipping over.
Forklift Accidents: Time Away from Work
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates business owners follow federal regulations, safety hazard warnings, and other forklift safety measures to prevent accidents.
Unfortunately, power truck and forklift infractions lead the list of reported violations to OSHA and other federal agencies. Many of these accidents result in time away from work while the injured employee heals.
Statistics show that forklift operators spend an average of 13 days away from their job due to work-related injuries in 2017, compared to an average of 8 days for all other occupations.
- A standard forklift can weigh more than 9000 pounds or nearly three times as heavy as a passenger vehicle
- The top speed of most forklifts is 18 mph
- Forklifts are significantly harder to stop than a passenger vehicles because they are manufactured with front brakes only
- Most of the weight of a forklift is in the rear, compensating for lifting, carrying, and moving heavy loads on the front tines (forks)
- The forklifts on even weight distribution make turning and operating difficult
- The forklift carries its load in the front, obstructing the driver’s view
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires industry professionals to train and supervise forklift operators to ensure everyone’s safety
- Pedestrian barriers are required when workers and others are around a working forklift
- While most forklifts are designed to lift and transport 5000 pounds, some industrial models can lift up to 50,000 pounds
Any injured forklift driver or employee harmed in forklift accidents should seek immediate medical attention. Only a competent doctor with the best diagnostic tools can accurately identify the severity of the worker’s injuries.
Next, the worker should report all accidents to their employer, who must report the incident to OSHA to comply with recordkeeping regulations. The injured forklift driver should receive additional forklift safety training to ensure that these accidents never occur anywhere again.
Don’t Be a Statistic. Hire a Workplace Injury Attorney to Handle Your Compensation Case
Were you injured in a forklift accident, or did you lose a loved one through a wrongful death at their workplace? The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can ensure your family receives the financial compensation they deserve.
Contact our law offices today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. We understand you likely cannot afford to hire an attorney, so we accept all cases through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement ensures that you do not pay us anything until we have successfully resolved your case.
Our law firm currently follows CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Covid-19 (coronavirus) social distancing guidelines to protect our clients.