Communication Critical to Forklift Safety

forklift accessories safetyA recent industrial accident that left a forklift operator at a Indiana egg production facility seriously injured illustrates the importance of maintaining clear and concise communication at all times.

The accident occurred about 11 a.m. last Thursday at the Creighton Brothers Processing Plant, in unincorporated Kosciusko County, near Warsaw, Indiana.

Trucker Moves Rig Without Informing Forklift Operator

Robert Carpenter, of Burleson, Texas, was backing his semi-tractor trailer truck into the loading dock at the egg production facility when he noticed that he had backed in at a slight angle. Carpenter then put his rig into gear and pulled it forward so he could straighten it out.

Meanwhile, at the same moment a Creighton Brothers employee — Arnold Shepherd, 52, of Warsaw — apparently believed that Carpenter’s truck was parked and ready to be loaded with a pallet of white buckets. Shepherd began to drive his forklift forward into the enclosed semi-trailer unit.

As the truck pulled out, the forklift fell into the gap that was created between the truck’s bed and the dock. The forklift flipped, Shepherd fell out of his vehicle and the 2,000 pound forklift landed on top of him, crushing his legs.

Forklift Driver Seriously Injured

When rescue personnel arrived on the scene, they found Shepherd stuck under the forklift with visible open compound fractures and other injuries to both legs.

Shepherd was transported by Mentone and Multi-Township EMS to Lutheran Hospital, in nearby Fort Wayne, where he was listed in serious condition. Also responding were the Kosciusko County sheriff’s police, the Atwood Fire Department, and a Medi-Vac helicopter, which wasn’t used.

The sheriff’s police are investigating the incident, according to local news reports. As of yet, no charges have been filed.

Poor Communication Can Lead to Accidents

The accident is just the latest example of how a momentary breakdown in communication can have tragic results.

Had the truck driver and the forklift operator exchanged verbal communications that the rig was ready to be loaded, Shepherd’s injuries probably would never have happened.

Loading docks are busy, fast-paced environments where every minute is worth money. Workers and truck drivers often want to get through their tasks as quickly as possible so that they can get on to the next project.

Ways to Improve Communications

But as this unfortunate accident illustrates, taking the time to make sure that everybody is on the same page is critical to the safety and efficiency of your operations. Here are some tips that can help prevent similar accidents from occurring at your dock:

  • Prohibit forklift operators from loading or unloading trucks while the driver is still in the cab.
  • Require forklift operators and truck drivers to speak to each other to confirm that the truck is ready to be loaded or unloaded. At the very least, require that they make eye contact and either nod or signal that they job is ready to proceed.
  • Use a spotter or supervisor to oversee the loading and offloading of all vehicles on your dock.
  • Have your drivers and forklift operators use their horns to indicate when vehicles are being moved on or off the truck bed.

While these steps may take an extra moment or two, if they can prevent the type of injury accident that occurred last week in Indiana, they are more than worth it.



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