Forklift accidents are one of the more common possible violations reported to OSHA. This is in part because everyone working in the vicinity of the forklift may be in danger.
The lesson we learned from reviewing Occupational Safety and Health Administration accident investigation reports of the various injuries that are suffered in this type of accident.
The forklift operator and their co-workers may be in jeopardy when these powered industrial trucks are being operated.
Department of Labor Forklift Accident Data
First, to take a look at the statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics show a relatively constant number of fatalities each year in the United States. From 2011 to 2017, 75 and 94 workers were killed yearly in forklift mishaps.
An average of 7,000 workers annually were also hurt in forklift accidents.
There is no noticeable trend among these numbers other than that they are constant and consistent. If you are looking for the root causes of these accidents, they are usually a lack of proper training and oversight and lax compliance with forklift safety.
While we can also look to OSHA accident reports as a source of statistics, not all accidents are reported to the government for further investigation.
Nonetheless, we can see more descriptions of the types of forklift accidents and how the government takes action against employers that violate the rules.
Common Types of Forklift Accident Injuries
The largest category of forklift accident that injures employees is transportation accidents. Forklifts can overturn and tip over. When that happens, the forklift driver and people nearby can suffer severe injuries that can be fatal.
Moreover, employees in the area are also at risk of being struck by forklifts.
Here are some common ways that forklifts can injure employees:
- Workers can be pinned between the forklift and another object or the wall
- Employees can fall off of a forklift
- The forklift overturns, throwing the employee
- The forklift can strike or run over another employee in the area
- Government rules to protect workers from a forklift accident
OSHA imposes many safety rules on employers regarding the operation of forklifts. The government recognizes the danger of this industrial machinery and attempts to ensure workers can remain safe on the job.
Below are some of the applicable OSHA rules that employers must follow:
- 29 CFR 1910.178 contains the specific regulations relating to forklifts. Here are some of them:
- All forklifts must meet certain design and safety standards. 29 CFR 1910.178(a)(2)
High Lift Rider trucks shall be fitted with an overhead guard to prevent occupational injury 29 CFR 1910.178(e)(1)
- The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a forklift safely by complying with training program requirements and safety management and safety programs specific to forklifts. 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1)(i)
- Employers should not allow anyone to walk beneath the elevated portion of a truck 29 CFR 1910.178(m)(2).
- Employees should also be provided with personal protective equipment.
These are just some of the pages and pages of regulations that OSHA has to keep forklift operators and people in the vicinity safe. Unfortunately, not all employers follow these rules.
Many employers violate the rules, whether they are trying to cut corners to save money by cutting back on safety training or are plain negligent.
When this happens, it can cause serious injuries and can cost lives.
OSHA Accident Investigation Reports
We can also learn something about forklift warehouse accidents by looking at the OSHA investigation statistics and reports. There were 34 accident investigations completed by OSHA in 2019. In 27 of these accidents, there were fatalities.
This does not contradict the fatality data reported by the BLS that we discussed above. OSHA usually investigates and takes enforcement action when severe injury or death occurs. They will often show up in the case of workplace injuries.
In 2018, OSHA completed 75 accident investigations. The fatality rate in forklift accidents was much lower, as only six of these incidents involved cases where workers were killed.
This is not to say that there was any one specific factor that caused an overall increase in the number of forklift fatalities.
Nonetheless, given the rise of online shopping and the extensive use of warehouses, there are some increased risks for workers across the economy.
OSHA Penalties for Employers Who Broke the Rules
Here are some different types of forklift accident injuries that come from reports of OSHA investigations:
- Penalty for $15,900 from the South Carolina Office (Oct. 2019) – Workers used a front-end loader to haul mulch material. There was a collision, and a forklift tire pinned a worker. The employee suffered massive internal injuries and died six days later. The employer received five violation items, including three serious violations.
- Penalty for $27,846 from the San Antonio Office (Jul. 2019) – The employee operated a forklift with an attachment. The forklift tipped over, ejecting the employee from the forklift’s cab. He hit his head on the mast and was killed. The employer was found to have exposed the employee to an unsafe workplace with a crushing hazard.
- The penalty of $19,322 from the Wichita Office (June 2019) – The employee worked for a company drilling residential water wells. He raised the forklift mast, which came into contact with overhead power lines. He was electrocuted and killed. The company was fined for violating several OSHA rules relating to electrical safety.
- The penalty of $17,050 from the Dallas Office (May 2019) – An employee was driving a tugger. He drove into a forklift that was parked that had its forks raised. The tugger driver was killed in the collision. The employer was found to have committed two serious safety violations.
Legal Options After a Forklift Mishap
Employees hurt in forklift accidents or their families must figure out who and what was responsible for the accident. If the accident resulted from a defect in the forklift, the family may file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer.
If the accident resulted from the employer’s gross negligence, the employee or their estate may file a lawsuit against the employer outside the workers’ compensation system. Speak with one of our knowledgeable forklift accident attorneys about your legal options.