Forklifts are among the most widespread machines used at factories and construction sites. They are powerful and nimble, able to quickly move large loads around tight spaces. They also are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on U.S. worksites.
More than 600 workers were killed in forklift-related incidents from 2011-17. Over 7,000 were injured each year and forced to miss an average of 13 days of work as they racked up lost wages and medical bills. Most of the fatalities are caused by a tipping forklift crushing the operator. Common injuries include head and neck, spinal cord, broken bones and amputation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates about 70% of forklift accidents in the United States are preventable with better training and stricter inspections.
Recognizing the risks
Forklifts are valuable tools because they haul heavy objects with minimal labor. They also weigh up to 9,000 pounds compared to the average 3,000-pound car. And they can travel up to 18 mph.
Forklifts are constantly on the move, which exposes employees and pedestrians to collisions and turnovers. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, most accidents are caused by:
- Excessive speed
- Uneven weight distribution
- Sharp turns
- Obstructed views
- Poor maintenance
An organized workplace with guardrails and designated aisles for safely moving materials is crucial for efficiency and safety. Construction companies and factory owners must professionally train and certify forklift operators on how to drive and maintain specific models through classroom education and practical exercises.
Regulations also mandate daily inspections before a forklift can be used. Someone who foregoes the checklist might overlook a sliced brake line or malfunctioning control that could cause an accident.
Build a case
Getting injured at work can have serious physical and financial implications for you and your family. You have rights as an employee to be compensated for lost wages, medical bills, rehabilitation and disability benefits if you are hurt on the job.
Workers’ compensation regulations and proceedings are complex. Employers and insurance companies familiar with the rules and timelines can exploit an injured worker’s inexperience, especially when they are vulnerable and focused on recovery. Someone who knows the laws governing workplace injuries and how to fight against powerful interests might be able to build a case and leverage a favorable outcome.