Forklift Accidents: Stories and Preventative Measures

Do you know how to operate a forklift properly? If you’re a forklift operator with the skills and know-how to control a forklift correctly, you are keeping the people around you safe.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, more than 539,000 workers were officially classified as industrial truck and tractor operators in May 2015. These professionals use tractors or trucks to transport materials to different places, such as:

  • Storage yards
  • Factories
  • Construction sites
  • Warehouses

Like many professionals, industrial truck and tractor operators are responsible for maintaining a safe, productive work environment day after day.

However, forklift accidents may occur without notice and put both industrial truck and tractor operators and their employers at risk. As such, preventing forklift accidents is paramount, particularly for forklift operators who handle a large assortment of big and small objects every day. By taking the necessary steps and precautions, forklift operators can minimize the risk of forklift accidents consistently.

Why Do Forklift Accidents Occur?

Tool testing and reviews website Tools of the Trade points 1 out of 6 workplace fatalities are linked to forklifts and around 25 percent of all U.S. forklift accidents take place in the construction industry. Those who understand the importance of forklift safety may be able to limit risk and prevent forklift accidents before they happen, regardless of business sector. 

Forklift accidents usually occur due to a number of factors, including:

  1. Lack of Proper Training

In many industries, forklifts serve an important purpose: To help you move large or small objects such as boxes and crates from one place to another quickly and effortlessly. Furthermore, you can use a forklift to raise and lower a container as needed, thus ensuring you’re able to move the right object to the right place at the right time without delay.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to create and deploy a training program for forklift operators. This program typically focuses on a number of key areas, including:

  • How to handle forklifts that will be used as part of a business’s day-to-day operations.
  • Common forklift hazards and how to manage these issues.
  • General forklift safety mandates as defined by federal law.

Also, OSHA requires trained forklift operators to prove during a workplace evaluation that they can get the job done properly and safely. This often leads companies to consider a variety of tutorials to teach employees how to operate forklifts, including formal presentations such as lectures and videos and practical demonstrations and exercises. Of course, business managers will remain readily available to respond to employees’ queries related to forklift safety, too.

OSHA requires businesses to ensure any forklift operator is trained and evaluated at least once every three years. Failure to do so can be costly. Employees who work without the proper training may put their lives as well as their peers’ at risk. Meanwhile, if a business ignores forklift training, it could suffer loss of employees and brand reputation damage as well as receive fines or other penalties due to non-compliance with federal law.

It is important to note trainees can operate forklifts, but OSHA guidelines dictate these workers can only do so under the following criteria:

  • When they are working under the direct supervision of a trained professional who understands how to operate and manage a forklift properly.
  • Where there is no danger to the trainee or other workers.

Your business’s forklift training program ultimately can have far-flung effects on your employees and your everyday operations. Therefore, businesses that implement a comprehensive set of tutorials can minimize the dangers associated with common forklift accidents.

  1. Production Issues

    No want wants to feel rushed, especially if they are operating heavy machinery. But in some cases, workplace demands can result in production issues that increase risk.

For example, a company may fall behind on its shipments and need to move crates or other containers onto its trucks as quickly as possible. If this business employs several forklift operators who are going from place to place with large objects quickly, the risk of a forklift accident may increase significantly.

Comparatively, business managers who are committed to resolving production issues without putting added pressure on forklift operators can thrive. These managers may be able to solve problems with creative solutions and ensure forklift operators won’t have to worry about extra stress as they perform their day-to-day duties. This also may help drastically reduce the risk of forklift accidents and improve workplace productivity at the same time.

  1. Ineffective Forklift Maintenance

Proper forklift maintenance is essential, and without it, you may struggle to maximize the lifespan of your forklift.

When it comes to forklift maintenance, a safety-first approach remains crucial. You must be ready to perform regular forklift inspections and repairs and understand how to do so correctly to limit the risk of common forklift accidents.

So what does it take to maintain a forklift? Here are several tips you can use to keep a forklift in great shape for an extended period of time:

  • Always clean a forklift in a safe, distraction-free environment.
  • Shut off a forklift’s engine and release all hydraulic pressure before you begin in-depth repairs.
  • Clean or replace all plates and decals that cannot be read.
  • Ensure the boom, mast and other forklift components are secure before you start cleaning a forklift.
  • Try to keep dirt, water and other contaminants out of any stored fuel that could be used to power a forklift.

Remember, taking care of a forklift can help improve the machine’s performance. And as a result, you may be able to reduce forklift accidents associated with poor forklift maintenance as well.

  1. Incorrect Assignment of Forklift Operators

Business managers must put their forklift operators in the best position to succeed. Otherwise, these forklift operators may struggle to get the job done correctly, increasing the chances of workplace accidents.

Forklift operators should be unafraid to ask for extra help if necessary, because when it comes to operating a forklift, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

Business managers also should try to support forklift operators as much as they can. Simply being available to respond to concerns and questions is important, as this allows business managers to deliver critical support that could stop a forklift accident from occurring.

  1. Forklift Age

Even a well-maintained forklift eventually will reach the end of its lifespan. And business managers who are able to identify short- and long-term quality issues immediately can work toward replacing a forklift quickly.

An average forklift may perform well for up to 20,000 hours without requiring any substantial repairs. But it is crucial to keep in mind how a forklift is being used, as this may impact its lifespan.

For instance, a forklift that is subjected to extreme climates may have a shorter lifespan than one that is used solely in indoor settings with controlled temperatures.

In many situations, planning ahead can make it easy for business managers to optimize the value of a forklift. Consider how frequently a forklift will be used as well as how and where this machine will be utilized before you purchase a new forklift. This will allow you to determine the best forklift for your needs, and as such, ensure your forklift operators can use a safe, dependable forklift every day.

Examples of Past Forklift Accidents

Clearly, there are many causes of forklift accidents, along with numerous ways to stop these incidents from happening.

But what do forklift accidents mean for businesses and their employees? To better understand the importance of reducing the risk of forklift accidents, let’s take a look at three examples of situations in which forklift operators and other employees were exposed to unnecessary risks.

  1. USPS Receives OSHA Citations Over Forklift Safety Violations

In April 2016, a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Distribution Center in Urbandale, Iowa, received multiple citations for forklift safety violations.

OSHA cited the distribution center for two repeated and one serious safety violation after it conducted an investigation into the facility’s operations in October 2015. The agency found forklift operators did not have great visibility while handling unstable loads. These operators were also exposed to hazards from nearby industrial trucks.

OSHA issued $88,000 in proposed penalties against the distribution center. These penalties may have been prevented if the facility had complied with federal guidelines to ensure its workers were protected against common forklift accidents.

  1. OSHA Penalizes Ohio Auto Parts Manufacturer for Forklift Hazards

Ohio auto parts manufacturer Autoneum North America was fined $59,500 in February 2016 due to several forklift and machine hazards at some of its plants. OSHA cited Autoneum for numerous safety infractions, including:            

  • Failure to train workers on various machine-specific procedures.
  • Incorrect operation of forklifts.
  • Lack of training for forklift operators.

How Autoneum and other auto part makers deal with federal regulations will dictate whether or not these businesses can comply with federal guidelines consistently. OSHA noted that hundreds of serious injuries occur each year through violations such as the ones at Autoneum, including amputations. The agency encouraged manufacturers to exercise common sense in safety standards in order to safeguard workers.

Unfortunately, in the aforementioned scenario, Autoneum failed to take the essential steps for preventing forklift accidents. But teaching its employees about the causes of forklift accidents and common forklift accidents could deliver both short- and long-term benefits for Autoneum and its workers.

With the right forklift safety training, workers will be better equipped to perform their everyday tasks to the best of their abilities at all times. Moreover, Autoneum will be able to avoid the costly fines and penalties associated with non-compliance with federal guidelines and serve as a positive example for other auto part manufacturers across the country.

  1. Missouri Warehouse Exposes Forklift Operators to Fall and Trip Dangers

FW Warehousing boasts more than 4 million square feet of warehouses throughout the Midwest, but this company may need to consider improvements to ensure its workers remain safe against forklift dangers.

The warehouse distribution center provider was fined $69,300 by OSHA in December 2015 due to unsafe work conditions at its warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri.

OSHA pointed out FW Warehousing exposed its forklift operators to numerous fall and trip dangers. In fact, the agency noted FW Warehousing forklift operators drove across uneven surfaces and platforms without rails up to 20 feet high. It also criticized the lack of light in the facility.

Bill McDonald, OSHA’s area director in St. Louis, said these types of conditions can create a serious danger and that FW Warehousing needed to take immediate action. It was just one example of the hundreds of accidents that happen in warehouses when employers ignore basic safety advice, he said.                                                                                      

Going forward, FW Warehousing may need to implement many forklift safety improvements to guarantee it can meet federal standards. And with a safety-first approach to workplace safety, this company will be prepared to safeguard its forklift operators and other employees against a broad range of forklift accidents.

How Can Your Business Protect Forklift Operators Consistently?

OSHA notes about 90 percent of all forklifts will be involved in an accident during their lifespan. For those who operate forklifts, this means there is a substantial risk you may be involved in a forklift accident.

It takes a team effort for a business to minimize the dangers associated with forklifts. In addition to employees receiving extensive forklift operator training, business managers must reinforce performance and safety guidelines and ensure a company meets federal standards.

Also, it is vital to find a forklift provider that will go above and beyond the call of duty to guarantee all of your business’s forklift operators and employees can remain safe. With McCall Handling, you can reap the benefits of a superior forklift provider.  

Discover the McCall Handling Difference

For more than six decades, we’ve served as a leading provider of forklifts and lift trucks throughout the entire mid-Atlantic region. We even offer high-quality forklifts and lift trucks from Bendi, Hyster, Drexel and other globally recognized brands and manufacturers. That way, you’re guaranteed to receive a top-of-the-line machine any time you work with us.

Let’s not forget about our vast array of forklift and lift truck accessories, parts and services, either. Plus, we’ll go the extra mile to ensure you are fully supported at all times. And if you ever have concerns or questions along the way, we’re always happy to respond to your queries immediately.

Finding the right forklift or lift truck sometimes can be difficult. But with McCall Handling at your side, you can eliminate the guesswork commonly associated with the buying process. We’ll work with you to understand your business’s needs, enabling you to discover a first-rate forklift or lift truck that will serve you well for an extended period of time.

Choose McCall Handling for all of your forklift and lift truck needs – you’ll be glad you did. To learn more about our forklift and lift truck offerings, please contact us via our website or call us at 888-870-0685.