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Forklift accidents can occur anywhere the heavy industrial materials handling vehicles are used. But they are more likely to occur in manufacturing facilities than anywhere else, according to data compiled by federal safety officials.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that each year there are an estimated 97,000 forklift-related injuries in the US. An average of 85 of these accidents are fatal and about a third result in serious injuries.
Manufacturing Most Dangerous
Of these fatal forklift accidents, 42.5 percent occur in manufacturing facilities. Construction sites were the second most dangerous places for forklifts, accounting for 23.8 percent of accidents.
Rounding out the list were wholesale trades (12.5 percent), transportation (11.0 percent), retail trade (9.0 percent), and mining (1.2 percent).
Lack of Training Most Common Cause
The number one cause of forklift accidents is inadequate training for vehicle operators, according to OSHA.
“No one starts out with the innate knowledge, skills, and abilities to safely operate a forklift,” the agency stated in a document sent to businesses for training purposes. “As OSHA requires, drivers must be properly trained to do so. The lesson to be learned is, operating a forklift without training is dangerous and can even be fatal to you or other employees working in the area.”
Different Risks for Different Vehicles
Forklifts aren’t the only dangerous motorized vehicles used in warehouses, docks, and other workplaces. Power jacks, automated guided vehicles, and others all pose potential dangers.
But forklifts driven by human operators are among the most dangerous, according to OSHA.
“A sit-down, counterbalanced high lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck,” the agency reported in a special bulletin on forklift safety.
Working Near Pedestrians
Where the forklift is used also has a large bearing on safety. For example, within materials handling businesses, most workers are accustomed to working near the large machines. But when these same forklifts are used around the general public, such as in retail businesses, there is often a higher risk of accidents due to pedestrians not understanding the dangers.
Some of the most common types of forklift accidents involving injuries occur when lift trucks are accidentally driven off loading docks, lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer, and when they are struck by another lift truck.
Regardless of where they are used, the key to forklift is training, according to OSHA.
“Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely,” the agency stated.