Forklifts, or “powered industrial trucks,” are used in many different workplaces in Florida and around the country. In particular, they help workers to lift and move heavy materials around factories, warehouses and construction sites. It is safe to say that forklifts play an integral role in our economy.
Unfortunately, forklifts can be as dangerous as they are useful. These machines often are at the center of serious and deadly workplace accidents.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an analysis of data collected over a 15-year period showed that 1,021 workers died from the injuries they suffered in forklift accidents. The most common accidents that occurred during that time period were:
|Type of Accident||Pct. of Victims|
|Worker on foot struck by forklift||20%|
|Victim crushed by forklift||16%|
|Fall from forklift||9%|
Both employers and workers can play a role in preventing forklift accidents. The following are seven ways to avoid these incidents based on information provided by the CDC as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency that regulates workplace safety.
Conduct routine inspection and maintenance of forklifts.
OSHA actually requires that forklifts be inspected before the start of each day or, if they are used around-the-clock, at the start of each shift. This is because a forklift that is need of maintenance can malfunction and be extremely unsafe.
The pre-work inspection should cover areas that include:
- Checking oil, water and hydraulic fluid levels
- Detecting and cracks or leaks in hoses and chains
- Checking tire pressure and the condition of tire tread
- Inspecting the condition of the fork attachment and backrest extension
- Ensuring all safety features are in good condition
- Making sure warning labels and instructions are intact and can be read.
Never allow a forklift to be operated by an untrained or unlicensed worker.
A forklift is a complex piece of machinery. For this reason, a forklift should be operated only by those who have received forklift training and who are licensed to use forklifts. For instance, a trained forklift operator will know how to safely get on and off the machine, drive and maneuver it through a work site and lift and place loads of materials (while making sure to avoid loads that are too heavy). He or she also will know what can be done to avoid injury if the forklift overturns.
Be extremely cautious when using a forklift on a ramp.
A forklift tipover can readily occur when a load is being carried up or down an incline. Employers should stress the need for caution. The operator must drive at a slow speed, face forward at all times and maintain a safe gap between the machine and the edge of the ramp, according to OSHA. No turn should ever be attempted on a ramp, either. The manufacturer’s slope specifications should be followed.
Always operate a forklift at a safe speed.
Just like a motor vehicle, a forklift operator loses the ability to control the machine and take action to avoid accidents if the operator is moving too fast. For instance, the operator may be unable to maneuver around a grease spot, hole or object. Additionally, when a forklift is traveling at an unsafe speed, a load may shift and fall off, and the shift in weight can cause the forklift to overturn.
Restrict foot traffic where forklifts are being used.
As the CDC points out, the safest thing to do is to keep those who are working on their feet away from areas where forklifts are being used. This is because a forklift operator may not see a co-worker who is on foot, or the worker may be hurt by something that falls off the fork.
Use proper safety equipment.
A forklift operator should wear a hard hat at all times. Additionally, the forklift should have seat belts or “operator restraint systems.” The CDC notes that many older forklifts may lack these safety devices. However, it may be possible to install a safety belt. A forklift should also have a horn that is in working condition.
Report all forklift-related accidents.
Any worker who is involved in a forklift accident should report it immediately to his or her employer. The employer, in turn, should report the incident to state and federal OSHA officials. When these accidents are reported, it can help workplace safety officials to identify risks and find ways to eliminate them.
Your Legal Options After a Forklift Accident in Florida
Orlando workplace accident lawyer, Frank M. Eidson, P.A., have extensive experience with helping workers who have suffered serious injuries on the job and families that have lost loved ones to work-related accidents. In many instances, we have assisted victims of forklift-related incidents.
When we review cases, we typically analyze eligibility for Florida workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits can pay for medical expenses caused by a forklift accident and replace a percentage of the wages that a worker may be unable to otherwise earn while recovering. Death benefits may be available through the workers’ compensation system for surviving family members.
However, our law firm also looks at options beyond workers’ compensation that may be available to a worker or family members. In some cases, a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit may be pursued against a non-employer that is responsible for a forklift accident. This is called a third-party liability claim.
An example of a third-party liability claim would be taking action against the manufacturer of a defective forklift. The action may be based on a design or manufacturing defect or a forklift manufacturer’s failure to provide adequate warnings about risks associated with the machine.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a forklift accident in Orlando, Winter Park or elsewhere in Florida, we believe it would benefit you to give us a call or reach us online. Orlando workplace accident lawyer will provide a free case review and help you to determine the legal options that are available in your case.