Why is Forklift Safety Overlooked?

Forklift Safety

Consumers and purchasers in the supply chain rely on warehouse workers in some way. This is true whether the last stop before a sale is a brick-and-mortar store or an online distribution or fulfillment center.

In a warehouse, moving materials, parts, or finished goods is done by forms of a forklift truck.

Although these vehicles can vary in size and configuration, they all serve one purpose, which is to allow a worker to move hundreds of pounds of materials in a warehouse or similar structure.

A forklift is a complicated machine. Its features are designed to accomplish the tasks needed. With inherent dangers to the operator of the forklift, there are machine features to make them safer along with training programs for the operator to recognize dangers and limitations of its use.

How is it that forklift safety can be overlooked when safe forklift operation in the workplace is designed to reduce any likelihood of accident and injury?

Initially, consider that forklifts are delicately balanced machines carrying heavy loads in the front lift with counterbalances and a steering apparatus that has little in common with cars or trucks.

Recent statistics show there are more forklift operators now employed. More than 1,500,000 forklift operators are currently working and nearly 80 percent are men, with an average age of 42. The average yearly salary is about $30,000.

Each year, there approximately 100,000 forklift-related accidents, with 85 deaths.

What other industry pays relatively little wages for the risks involved? And what other industry could prevent 70 percent of accidents if the guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and manufacturers’ standards for training and operation were followed?

A forklift operator or any worker who has experienced an unsafe workplace or has been injured should seek the assistance of a lawyer experienced in Workers’ Compensation. A lawyer will help ensure the injured worker receives all the benefits and compensation allowed by law.

Forklift Safety Concerns

Despite inherent design components, there are forklift structural improvements to reduce injuries. These include an overhead guard at the top of the cab to protect the operator from falling objects. There are wheels and tires of different types to match the ground environment where the forklift will be used. There are counterweights to balance lift loads and a metal plate attached to the frame outlining the weights front and back.

Safety experts say that forklift accidents have identifiable causes. The following list is not all-inclusive but serves to inform an employee in a warehouse or other workplace where a forklift is used the dangers inherent in using this equipment:

  • Personal safety of all workers in the workplace. Forklift operators are not the only workers at risk. A forklift can injure any worker in the warehouse or outdoor site who is in proximity to a forklift.
  • Negligent or hazardous operation. Forklifts can collide with loading docks or storage shelving or any fixed object.
  • Although there are guidelines for load weights and counterweights, loads can be unbalanced on the lift or exceed weight limits. Either will destabilize the lift.
  • Not every operational training program is alike, and one program may not be sufficient to educate the operator in all respects of the job.
  • Similarly, operational supervision protocols are not the same across the board. This includes poor traffic management plans and poor maintenance procedures to avoid damaged or defective equipment.
  • Indoor warehouses do not all have the same floor surface or plans to avoid slippery floors.
  • Lighting must be more than adequate. It should be appropriate for the need. There are differences in lighting indoors and outdoors.
  • Operators may not be performing at peak efficiency occasionally. Loads can be piled too high on the lift, obscuring the operator’s vision. Or working the lift at height where the operator no longer sees all that can happen with placing or retrieving materials can reduce a full range of vision.
  • For walk-along operators, using a remote control for the lift, operators must be in proper position at all times.
  • Another issue is if the operator is overworked. The annual wage of a forklift operator is on the lower end. Such a low salary can place demands on operators to work overtime to earn more. Mismanaged overtime can have a negative safety effect.

Part of the job for Workers’ Compensation lawyers is to ascertain whether the workplace observes safety protocols and guidelines. Workers’ Compensation benefits are the statutory result of a tacit agreement between workers and employers to provide no-fault benefits for workplace injuries generally.

Why are Forklifts a Workplace Hazard?

Accepting the fact that forklifts of all types have a definite potential as a hazard is the first step to improving workplace safety and not overlooking the dangers.

A forklift poses a workplace hazard because of the following:

  • They are heavy, as much as 9,000 pounds. This is about three times the weight of a car.
  • Their speed reaches 18 miles per hour, which seems like a slow speed. But couple the speed with the weight/mass, and impact with a forklift can be considerable and unhealthy.
  • Unlike a car, forklifts only have front brakes, so they are harder to stop.
  • Even with counterbalances, forklifts have uneven weight distribution that can interfere with steering and handling.
  • Loads are on the forklift, which often interferes with the operator’s vision.
  • Forklifts are used to access storage at height, both removing and placing loads. At heights, this process accentuates load disparities and machine control.

Workers are legally entitled to a safe workplace. With dangerous or hazardous machines in the workplace, this entitlement should be a priority for the employer.

Preventing Forklift Accidents

Why do employers overlook forklift safety? Is it a risk versus reward approach? Is the safety cost too high? Are the operators left without supervision since they are alone in the cab? Overlooking forklift safety is not compatible with the Workers’ Compensation agreement between employer and employee. There is a legal burden to make the workplace safe for all.

Improved safety and accident prevention for forklift operation is not complicated. These are some steps that should be taken:

  • Pre-inspect forklifts each shift. Look for obvious mechanical problems such as fluid leaks, sparks, deflated tires, and non-functioning brakes and controls.
  • Pay attention to the floor/road surface.
  • Go through loading and unloading sequences.
  • Park an unused forklift in a safe location.
  • Perform routine maintenance in a safe environment.
  • Provide formal training and have an operational supervisory plan.
  • Take immediate corrective action whenever there is any deviation from maintenance or operational rules and practices.

Media Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello Fight for Forklift Workers’ Safety

Forklift operators, and all workers alike, deserve workplace conditions that are safe. If you have been injured in a forklift accident on the job, the Media Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the Law Office of Deborah M. Truscello are available to assist. We will help you determine a fair amount of compensation that will adequately address your damages and fight to ensure that your claim is successful. Learn more at a free consultation by filling out an online registration form or calling 610-892-4940. Our office is in Media, Pennsylvania. We represent clients in Media, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster, Montgomery County, Norristown, Philadelphia, Reading, West Chester, and throughout Pennsylvania.