Potential Accident Risks While Operating a Forklift

Potential Accident Risks While Operating a ForkliftPotential Accident Risks While Operating a Forklift

Training and implementation of safety protocols play an important role in managing the risk associated with operating large machinery, including forklifts. Focus on these two areas can result in up to 70 percent reduction in the number of workplace accidents, according to OSHA.

Common Causes of Injuries

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), injuries at workplace occur most often due to:

  • The forklift toppling
  • A worker coming under the forklift
  • Falling from the forklift

All three types of unwarranted and dangerous situations can be avoided if employers give workers appropriate and strategic training.

Actual Incidents Involving ForkliftThe Toppling of a Forklift

In a fatal accident, the forklift being operated by the manager of a sign company overturned, killing him instantly. He was maneuvering the forklift to unload metal tubing from a trailer when the incident occurred. Realizing that his machine was tilting dangerously, he jumped off to save himself. Unfortunately, the overhead guard of the overturned vehicle landed on his neck and head, fatally crushing him to the hard driveway.

Being Hit by a Forklift

In a catastrophic accident involving a punch press worker, a forklift operating in reverse gear at great speed, toppled a bin containing metal scrap, sending it right into the press station where she was working. There, the bin bounced off the press and rammed back into the forklift, which jammed it back into the press, crushing the worker in the process.

Falling Off a Forklift

A technician came under a running forklift and died. He was riding on the fork while an operator drove the machine. When they reached an intersection, the operator slowed down and checked for road clearance. When he returned his gaze to the front of the vehicle, he couldn’t spot his colleague. He immediately turned off his vehicle, got down and checked, only to discover his colleague wedged under the machine’s right side, dead.

Understanding the Forklift Operation

The forklift is a unique vehicle with its own challenges.

  • At 9,000 pounds, a regular forklift weighs three times more than an average car.
  • To balance the weight being lifted by the forks, the bulk of the forklift’s weight is concentrated at its rear end.
  • Unlike cars in which one can apply brakes to all four wheels, in a forklift, the brakes apply only to the wheels in front.
  • The mismatch in weight distribution and the limitations with braking make the machine hard to halt. Speeding on a forklift is therefore very risky.
  • To turn a forklift, the rear wheels have to be turned. This makes it less maneuverable than a car, which has a greater radius for turning.
  • Speeding, turning, and stopping can cause a forklift to topple. While turning a forklift, the rear end of the vehicle swings out, shifting the balance. Stopping and speeding are also risky due to an imbalance in weight. Therefore, great care is needed while undertaking all these activates.
Carrying Load in a Forklift

The forklift is designed to be driven both forward and in reverse at equal speeds. E.g., when a tall load is being ferried, the view in front could be blocked. In such instances, the driver can operate the vehicle in reverse, by keeping his attention on the direction in which the vehicle is moving.

Forklifts are built to lift, shift and lower heavy loads. This becomes necessary in workplaces with high/heavy stacks of inventory. All three processes involve high risk when safety norms are disregarded (sometimes the situation is risky even if the safety rules are followed). Operators should apply extreme caution and work with the proper amount of weights, that don’t cause drag.

Training for Safe Operation

If forklift operators aren’t provided necessary training, their lives and that of persons working nearby can be at risk, especially, due to the several structural and mobility challenges of the machine. By making sure every forklift operator is trained and certified as per OSHA rules, employers can take pride in claiming that their workplaces are safer for their employees.

Watch YouTube Video: Forklift Safety: Pre-Shift Inspection. This safety video explains how a complete pre-shift inspection can spot maintenance issues before they cause an accident.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyers

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Operating a forklift can be a dangerous task. If you or a loved one has sustained injuries from a forklift, call me at 916.921.6400 or (800) 404-5400.

I am a part of the Million Dollar Advocates.

To see our past client reviews, as well as our resolved cases, go to:

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