20-Foot Falls, Low Light Conditions Put Forklift Operators at Risk

9385209277_7b261bf172_mForklift operators and other workers in a St. Louis warehouse complex were exposed to unsafe working conditions, including not having adequate lighting to see where they were going and platforms without guardrails adjacent to 20-foot drops, according to safety inspectors.

If the citations are upheld, the company faces up to $69,300 in proposed penalties.

15 Serious Violations

On December 16, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administrated cited FW Warehousing — doing business MJ Resurrection Inc. in the Crunden Martin warehouse in the city’s industrial district — with 15 serious safety violations, according to Bill McDonald, the area’s local OSHA director.

“Allowing forklifts to be operated in low light conditions on open platforms that workers could easily drive off is a recipe for disaster,” McDonald said in a news release announcing the violations. “FW Warehousing needs to immediately correct the many deficiencies in their facility. Each year hundreds of workers are injured on the job because employers fail to follow basic safety precautions.”

Forklift Drivers Put at Risk

Among the safety violations investigators discovered at the facility were:

  • Employees were required to move goods and materials in low-light conditions
  • Forklift operators drove vehicles on uneven surfaces and on unguarded platforms, exposing them to fall hazards up to 20 feet
  • Employees were not provided personal protective equipment such as hard hats and chemical resistant attire
  • Multiple electrical safety hazards existed
  • There was a lack of suitable eye wash stations
  • A freight elevator had no working lights
  • Damaged powered industrial vehicles were in use
  • Floors had protruding steel floor plates, loose plywood and deep depressions, causing slip, trip and fall hazards

FW Warehousing manages more than 4 million square feet of warehouse space in St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and other Midwestern areas.

A Disturbing Trend

The citations come in the wake of a recent report that showed the total number of workers who were killed on the job increased 2% last year.

The National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2014 found that 4,679 US workers were killed on the job during 2014, compared to 4,585 the previous year. That works out to 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2014, the same rate as 2013.

While the figures won’t be released until spring of 2016, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that over the past five years, net increases to the preliminary count averaged 173 new deaths per year — ranging from the low of 84 in 20111 (a 2% increase) to a high of 245 in 2012 (a 6%) increase.

Call for Increased Safety

While the average number of worker deaths remained the same between 2014 and 2013, that’s not good enough, according to US Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez.

“Far too many people are still killed on the job — 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily,” Perez said in a news release. “These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires.”

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