Occupational Health & Safety Online reports that there are roughly 34,900 forklift injuries each year in this country, with about 85 deaths. Among the more common causes of serious injuries and fatalities are due to tipping injuries, backing injuries, and items being dropped during operation.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is charged with regulating the operation, licensure, and use of forklifts, which are also referred to as ‘Powered Industrial Trucks.’
What Does the Law Require of Employers Who Use Forklifts?
Under the federal regulations at 29 CFR 1910.178, there are several major requirements that all employers must meet in order to safely and legally deploy forklifts in the workplace. Here are just three quick examples of significant requirements that often lead to injuries when not met:
- Requirement Example #1: Any and all forklifts in use must meet the standards set forth by the American National Standard for Powered Industrial Trucks. The forklift must have a label stating that the standard is met, and the forklift has passed all inspections.
- Requirement Example #2: Modifications and alterations have to be approved by the manufacturer. This means no making homemade changes to the forklift, such as dangerous fork extensions or modifications to the safety cage.
- Requirement Example #3: Forklifts must only be used for the purposes intended, based upon their class. There are 11 classifications of forklifts, each indicating different size, weight, and capacity.
The federal regulations are far more detailed than what is listed here, as the regulations also include very specific rules about the environment in which each type of forklift can be used. Employers should reference the regulations if they are unclear about how and where to use their forklifts.
Examples of Common Forklift Injuries
When forklifts are used by inexperienced drivers or when companies have employees use forklifts for unsafe purposes, accidents happen. Among the many ways people can get hurt, here are a few very common injuries:
- Falls: Sometimes people try to ride on the forks or use forklifts as makeshift ladders. This is typically a bad idea that can lead to falls.
- Crushing and Tipping: When forklifts are overloaded, it can cause the vehicle to tip over, and this can result in the driver or other workers being crushed or smashed.
- Falling Objects: When workers try to overload a forklift or use unsecured or unapproved extensions, objects can fall from up high and crush or strike people nearby. If the cage or other safety aspects of the forklift have been altered, this can also lead to items falling on the driver.
- Backing Injuries: Many forklifts are equipped with rearview mirrors and backing alarms. Sadly, some employers remove these or never repair them when they are broken or stop working. It is not uncommon for someone to be injured by a forklift that is backing up, especially if the alarm is turned off. In noisy factories, a quiet forklift can be deadly.
What to do if Injured by a Forklift
If you were seriously hurt or someone you love has been injured or died due to a negligent company making unsafe modifications to a forklift, contact The Oweyssi Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free private consultation. Sometimes the company is to blame, but other times a latent defect in the actual forklift could be the problem. Either way, you may be entitled to significant compensation for your injuries, but time is of the essence. The phone call is free, so you have nothing to lose.