Among the top most cited violations in 2013, those relating to powered industrial trucks (including forklifts) fell at the sixth place, moving up one position from the year before that. In 2012, OSHA issued more than 2,900 citations and levied penalties of about $2 million for forklift related violations. In 2013, the federal safety agency issued 3,452 citations.
Due to great maneuverability combined with low stability, forklifts accidents are a common hazard on worksites. According to OSHA, approximately 100 employees are killed and around 95,000 employees injured annually while operating a forklift.
At present, there are close to 1 million powered industrial trucks and 1.5 million forklift operators in US companies. AisleCop put together this informative infographic that illustrates the problem well:
Pedestrians at a high risk
One of the most common types of forklift accidents involve workers getting struck or crushed by a moving vehicle. Recently, OSHA levied Nicholson Terminal & Dock Co. a fine of $168,700 after a forklift carrying a 40,000-pound steel coil hit a worker at Detroit marine terminal resulting in his death on the spot. Just this week, a roll-back accident in Brooklyn crushed a supermarket worker, Gustavo Tapia, pinning him fatally against the wall.
Workers Compensation.com reports, “Causes of struck-by accidents typically involve reverse vehicle movement into a pedestrian outside the driver’s field of vision, or vehicles falling off ramps, inclines or unstable ground. ”
Lack of routine inspection, failure in heeding to audible and visual warnings, and non-conformance to manufacturer’s recommendation on load carrying and operation guidelines can also lead to accidents among workers afoot.
In January 2013, OSHA cited Plastic Systems in Kent, Ohio after a worker was injured when struck by a forklift. The company was cited for failing to complete forklift inspections, among other willful violations.
Untrained forklift operators cause injuries to themselves and other workers
The federal safety agency also reveals that 42% fatal accidents take place when a vehicle tips over and crashes. Manufacturing sites are the most common place for accidents where around 42.5% fatalities occur.
Incidents related to forklift injury are very common despite OSHA’s regulations for employers to make sure that only authorized and certified personnel operate the vehicle. In 2012, Thomas Neuhengen lost his heel after he was run over by a forklift operator employed by Global Experience Specialist Inc. in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center. The company subsequently faced a penalty of $91,000 for failing to ensure that the truck operators were trained. OSHA mandates that only trained workers who are 18 or above operate a forklift.
OSHA provides a sample of daily checklist that employers can fine-tune with the manufacturer’s recommendations to operate forklifts safely.