Forklifts are used to help move heavy objects over short distances. The benefit of forklifts is that workers don’t need to use sophisticated pully, rope, and cable systems. The downside is that forklifts are dangerous pieces of machinery that often cause crushing injuries, other serious injuries, and many deaths.
Forklifts, according to Ace Lifting, are used in many industries including construction, warehouses, distribution centers, loading docks, shipping, and manufacturing. Forklifts are also used to help with natural disaster relief. Attachments can be added so that forklifts can sweep warehouse floors and plow snow in the winter. Forklifts may also be used, with proper adjustments, as loading cranes and lifts.
The Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the operation and use of forklifts to protect workers. Generally, forklift operators need proper certifications. Forklift operators must also comply with the standards for their industries and any state or local regulations.
What types of injuries do forklift accidents cause?
Forklift-related injuries vary depending on the type and severity of the accident. In the most tragic cases, a worker or pedestrian dies. In fall cases, the victim may suffer head trauma, spinal cord injury, bruises, cuts and lacerations, soft tissue injuries and other damages. Forklift accidents may also cause crushing injuries, amputations if a body part is crunched, nerve damage, and other severe injuries. Even in the best-case scenario, negligent forklift operators can cause broken bones.
What are the common types of forklift accidents in Oklahoma?
According to Conger, an industrial solutions company based in Wisconsin and Michigan, the most common types of forklift accidents include the following:
- These are the most common type of deadly forklift truck accidents. Rollovers happen because the operator turns too quickly; the loads are unbalanced, uneven, or overloaded; the forklift turns on an incline, there’s a fast movement, the surface is uneven, or the load is elevated.
- Pedestrian accidents. Many forklift operators work in close proximity to other workers. Pedestrian accidents are usually caused by negligent operation of the forklift, failing to warn that the forklift is being used, or distracted pedestrians.
- Falling loads. Operators often lift small items that can easily fall if not properly secured. Loads that fall can injure the operator or pedestrians. Loads may fall if the load is off-center or loose. The operator may move or lift the load too quickly. The forklift may not have a backrest or the forks may be bent. The mast should be tilted properly.
- Falling/tipping forklifts. Many forklift accidents in Oklahoma occur when the inventory is moved between different areas of a warehouse or “into and out of semi-trailers.” The truck may fall because it rolls away, the floors are slippery, the floors are damaged, due to an improper dock plate, or the lack of a dock plate. OSHA requires that “…The flooring of trucks, trailers, and railroad cars shall be checked for breaks and weakness before they are driven onto.”
- Falling operators. Nobody should stand on the forks and be elevated. If the person falls; he/she may suffer brain or head injuries, internal bleeding, fractures, or “impalement.” There is other equipment that can be used to raise people such as “a scissor lift, man lift, or other purpose-built mobile elevating work platform (MEWP).”
What causes forklift accidents?
The most common cause of forklift accidents is operator negligence. Other causes include:
- Product defects and mechanical failures. Manufacturers of forklifts have a duty to ensure their products are safe for use. Forklifts may be defective due to faulty design, poor workmanship, and improper instructions or safety warnings. If a defective forklift causes an accident, the manufacturer may be strictly liable for any injuries or deaths that occur. The company that uses the forklift should also regularly inspect its forklifts. Common defects include brakes that are worn, fluid leaks, and damaged tires. OSHA specifically requires that industrial forklifts be examined before being placed in service. Inspections should be at least on a daily basis and often after each shift.
- Operators who lack proper training. It is an OSHA requirement that forklift operators be certified and have proper training. Not every company and every operator follows this OSHA requirement. Unskilled operators can cause deaths and serious injuries. Companies may use untrained operators to save costs especially if they don’t have time to hire someone. Companies do offer OHSA-compliant training courses.
How can Oklahoma City companies reduce forklift accidents?
The companies that hire forklift workers (as employees or contractors) should follow the manufacturer’s recommended speed limits. The operators should slow down when rounding corners because the lift truck’s center of gravity can move outside of a stable area. Operators should know the truck’s lift capacity. The load should be kept as low to the ground as possible. Floor tape can indicate where the forklift can go and where the pedestrians can walk. Physical barriers may be installed. Wall-mounted mirrors can help operators see around blind spots. Warning lights may alert pedestrians to an oncoming forklift. In noisy work areas, alarms can help alert pedestrians.
According to OSHA, workers who work shifts of 12 hours or more are 37% more at risk of injury. So, one way to reduce the risk of accidents is giving operators more frequent breaks.
What kind of help is available for forklift-related injuries?
Depending on how you were injured, you could have a few options to seek compensation for your injuries:
- If an employee is injured, the remedy is generally to file a workers’ compensation claim. You can file this claim to cover your medical expenses and most of your lost wages.
- If a contractor or non-worker is injured, we file personal injury claims on the victim’s behalf. If your loved one died, we file wrongful death claims on your behalf.
- All workers, employees and contractors, can file a product liability claim.
At Cunningham & Mears, our Oklahoma City personal injury lawyers fight for anyone injured by a defective product or by negligence. We have a strong track record of settlements and verdicts including many six and seven-figure results. We work with product safety experts, industry professionals, and investigators to help show why accidents such as forklift accidents occur. We demand compensation for all your personal and financial losses. To discuss your right to file a claim, contact us today in Oklahoma City, or phone us at 405-232-1212 to schedule a free consultation.
Ryan Y. Cunningham is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Cunningham devotes his practice to protecting the rights of injured Oklahoma residents. In addition to assisting injured clients, Mr. Cunningham endeavors to improve personal injury representation by speaking on issues related to personal injury law to attorneys in continuing legal education courses and to law students. Learn More