While the average American hasn’t actually driven or used a forklift, also known as a lift truck or powered industrial truck, they could certainly identify one on sight. Likewise, it’s common knowledge that forklifts can be very useful when it comes to lifting and moving heavy materials, but it’s not commonly known that it can be very dangerous to work in and around these powerful lift trucks.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are around 7,000 workplace injuries involving forklifts every year in the United States alone, with more than 500 of these being fatal. So, what are the main causes of injuries when using forklifts?
Common Causes Of Forklift Injuries
The following are some of the most common accidents that occur involving forklifts:
Lift Truck Falls Off Loading Docks
Although no one wants to drive off a loading dock purposefully, this is a tragically regular class of forklift accidents.
For a number of reasons, forklift operators may misjudge the distance between the forklift and the edge of the dock, and the next thing that happens is this heavy piece of machinery goes over the edge, potentially causing great harm to both the person inside and anyone who happens to be nearby. Forklift overturns are surprisingly common forklift accidents.
Lift Trucks Fall Between Docks And Unsecured Trailers
Truck trailers being loaded need to be secured so they don’t move during the process. Otherwise, a forklift could be caught between the dock and trailer, causing serious injuries and property damage.
Like any vehicle, accidents are more likely to happen if a forklift is driven too fast. And because forklifts are often driven in tight spaces with little room for error, even a small speed increase can have disastrous consequences.
Workers And Pedestrians Struck By Forklifts
For a forklift operator, it’s not always easy to see who is working around your lift truck, so it’s important for anyone on the ground to remain aware of the direction the machine is moving and maintain a safe distance. Forklifts don’t necessarily move very fast, but they are powerful and heavy, and if struck by them, victims can suffer severe physical injuries.
Forklift Falling Load Accidents
All forklifts have a maximum amount of weight they can lift; if that weight is exceeded, the machine could tip, or the load could be dropped. Such a falling load accident can potentially harm those around the lift and forklift operators.
Forklift Operator Electrocution
When a metal forklift comes into contact with a live wire, anyone touching the forklift can be electrocuted. Electrocution can be a common forklift accident, given that lift trucks are often used in construction areas or warehouses where wires are exposed.
Forklift Accidents And Operator Error
It is broadly recognized that operator error and improper training are the most common cause of forklift accident injuries. Often, these errors are due to inexperience or simply not paying attention to one’s surroundings.
As a result, it’s not just important but critical for all forklift operators to receive proper training and the corresponding forklift certification. Such training covers not only how to operate the forklift but also how to do so safely.
Additionally, regular upkeep and maintenance of forklift trucks are also vital in avoiding forklift accidents. If a forklift is not properly maintained, it can be very dangerous. For example, faulty brakes or steering from poor maintenance can easily lead to an accident.
Naturally, proper maintenance requires the proper tools. Often, companies look to save money by not obtaining the right equipment to maintain heavy machinery, which can lead to accidents.
OSHA Safety Standards Regarding Forklift Operators
The Occupational Safety And Health Administration (OSHA) has a set of regulations in regard to forklifts. These occupational health regulations cover various topics, including the types of forklifts which may be used depending on the industry, how fuels need to be stored, and even labeling.
They may be stringent, but OSHA’s guidelines protect workers and prevent many forklift accidents. Just a few examples of these include:
- No one under the age of 18 may operate a forklift.
- All new forklifts purchased by a company must meet the design and construction standards in the “American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks, Part II, ANSI B56.1-1969”.
- Modifications cannot be made to the forklift without the manufacturer’s written approval.
- Electrically powered units must have safeguards against fire hazards.
- Forklifts may not be used in an environment that has hazardous concentrations of metal dust, including aluminum, magnesium, and their commercial alloys, other metals of similarly hazardous characteristics, or in atmospheres containing carbon black, coal or coke dust unless approved forklifts that have been designed for that purpose.
- Only forklifts that are approved and designated as DS, DY, ES, EE, EX, GS, or LPS may be used where ignitable fibers are stored or handled.
As was stated, these are just a few of the examples of the regulations that exist. Employers are responsible for reading and knowing these regulations and providing employees with proper training.
The Most Common Injuries Resulting From Forklift Accidents
When someone is in a forklift and an accident occurs, common injuries that are diagnosed at the hospital include:
If electrocution occurs or an explosion, burns are likely. Burns comes in degrees, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Depending on the severity of the burn, months of hospitalization may be required and the likelihood of complications due to infection is high.
In addition to the required medical care, burns have a long-lasting impact on a patient due to the incredible pain that is caused and the scarring that is left behind.
Any bone can be broken; if the break is bad enough, that bone can cause further damage to surrounding tissue, muscle, and nerves. Depending on the break and the additional damage, a broken bone can take months to treat and can keep a patient from returning to work for months.
Damage to a joint can result in lifelong pain, arthritis, and a limited range of motion. Multiple surgeries may be required to fix the injury.
Traumatic Brain Injuries
Brain injuries come in two varieties, closed and open. In a closed brain injury, the skull and tissue remain intact. However, that doesn’t mean that the tissue isn’t’ damaged. Bruising and bleeding can occur that may result in tissue death. This damage can result in memory loss, chronic headache, difficulty speaking, issues with vision, and other disruptive symptoms.
An open brain injury is when the skull is broken, and the brain’s tissue is penetrated by either a piece of the skull or a foreign object.
Spinal Cord Damage
Damage to the spinal cord can result in constant numbness, tingling, burning sensation, partial paralysis, or total paralysis.
The cost of the medical care needed to treat any one of these injuries is immense and an injured forklift worker shouldn’t have to handle the burden of these costs.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a forklift accident, contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Schuster Law to learn more about how you may be able to recover compensation that will cover your medical bills.