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If a pallet or load is not properly balanced on the tines of a forklift, when the operator moves to raise the forks, it can have disastrous consequences.
But when the load is being picked up inside a confined space, such as the back of a semi-trailer, it’s not always convenient to double check that the load is balanced. It’s sometimes hard for workers to get in there and see that both forks are beneath the load.
Even though it may be difficult, it’s necessary to make sure that every load can be lifted safely because when a load tips, it can cause damage to products, injuries to workers, and even death.
A Recent Example
Unfortunately, that was the case in connection with an incident that was the subject of a recent court filing in Canada.
On Jan. 15, the Ontario Ministry of Labor fined a company that makes wheelchairs $150,000 in connection with a fatal accident in which a worker was killed by an imbalanced load that tipped inside a trailer.
The accident occurred May 26, 2013, at Future Mobility Healthcare, Inc., in Mississauga, Ontario, just outside of Toronto. A crew of workers was assigned the task of emptying the contents of some trailers, including a machine that weighed approximately 3,500 pounds.
As one worker operated a forklift, two other employees were standing inside the trailer trying to guide and stabilize the machine. What none of the workers realized was that the distance between the vehicles two forks was too wide, so only one of the forks was under the heavy machinery.
So when the driver went to lift the machine, it toppled to one side. One of the workers was able to jump out of the way, but the other stayed beside the machine and tried to stop it from tipping.
“The machine continued to tip off the fork and pinned the worker against the side of the trailer,” the ministry stated in a news release announcing the penalty. “Emergency services were called to the scne but the worker succumbed to injuries sustained in the incident.”
Company Owners Held Accountable
Investigators determined that the company was responsible because it failed to “ensure that materials were lifted or moved in such a way that did not endanger the safety of any worker, as required by law.”
Officials from Future Mobility pleaded guilty to failing to violating Ontario Regulation 851.90, the Industrials Establishments Regulation, as well as Canada’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The $150,000 fine was imposed by Justice of the Peace Jeannie Anand in Provincial Offences Court. She also imposed a 25% victim fine surcharge to be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist crime victims, as required by the Provincial Offences Act.
Double checking to make sure loads are properly balanced is not always convenient, especially when working in tight spaces against a deadline. But the alternative — in this case the death of an employee and a substantial fine for the company — is far worse.