Forklifts have become essential tools in various industries. However, many employers and employees do not give lift trucks the respect they deserve. Thousands of forklift accidents cause injuries and fatalities every year because employers and employees underestimate the dangers they pose.
Regardless of whether you work on a construction site, in a warehouse, fulfillment center or factory in Pennsylvania, forklifts can be a safety hazard — whether you are the operator or a pedestrian. Negligent operators and pedestrian workers or inadequate maintenance can cause forklift accidents, and they are almost always preventable.
The importance of training
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to protect the health and safety of employees. Their responsibilities include the provision of adequate training. Most forklift accidents result from insufficient training or an operator disregarding safety rules. Your employer must ensure that both forklift operators and pedestrian workers learn how to stay safe on and around forklifts, and being aware of the most common hazards might keep you out of harm’s way.
Striking objects or people
Only properly trained and certified operators should drive forklifts. If you are such an operator, always make sure your machine is in good working order and avoid making the following mistakes:
- Do not carry loads that block your view. They can lead to striking pedestrian workers or fixed obstructions.
- Make sure that the areas where you must travel are free of debris or random objects.
- Only operate the forklift in areas suitable for its use.
Forklifts can tip over surprisingly easy when you overload them or if you carry an unbalanced load. The following points describe what can happen and how you can protect yourself and others:
- Not only will a tipped forklift cause damage to property, but it could also crush the operator and pedestrian workers.
- If you are the operator of a forklift that is about to tip over, never jump out of it, because it could fall on top of you.
- Safety authorities recommend you hold onto the steering wheel, keep your body and head away from the ground and brace yourself.
- If it is possible to shout a warning at that time, you could also save pedestrian workers from crushing injuries.
Never allow another employee to ride along when your forklift carries a load, and keep the following in mind:
- Adding a passenger to any load can cause it to become unbalanced and fall off the fork. The passenger could suffer severe injuries.
- You must also avoid lifting a co-worker to a higher level on an empty fork.
- Even if you do not carry passengers, you must double-check any load to prevent moving unbalanced loads.
Workers who share their work-spaces with forklifts must also learn how to stay safe, but you as the operator must prevent striking them by taking the following precautions:
- Avoid speeding, but remember that hitting a co-worker — even at low speed — can be deadly.
- Keep vision in mind as you load the forklift, make sure your load does not obstruct your view.
- Lift or lower the load to get a clear view of the route ahead.
- Make sure pedestrian workers are aware of your approach and take particular care around corners and doorways.
In the unfortunate event of a forklift accident, your injuries could be severe, and you might be unable to return to work for an extended period. Setting the wheels in motion to claim workers’ compensation benefits could help you avoid the stress and anxiety over mounting medical bills and lost wages. You can seek the assistance of an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney immediately after the accident to navigate the claims process on your behalf.