Forklift-Support Beam Crash shows the Need for Driver Safety

yieldYou don’t need to be an architect to understand that the support beams the line the interiors of warehouses, distribution centers, and manufacturing facilities are important.

They not only support the ceiling but essential carry the entire weight of the building. So if they were to be struck by a forklift or some other type of heavy equipment, the results could be devastating.

Those were the concerns of officials at Kayu International last week after a forklift operator accidentally crashed his vehicle into one of the support beams at the company’s warehouse in Tigard, Oregon.

Forklift Rams Support Beam

The accident occurred Monday, April 6. The worker was driving his vehicle within the warehouse when he apparently didn’t see the support beam and struck it with the full force of his forklift. The collision caused the support beam to buckle, which then caused the partial collapse of the warehouse’s roof.

An employee notified the fire department of the accident and the business was evacuated, along with two other adjoining businesses including Sky High Sports. A total of 120 people were evacuated from the buildings.

The driver suffered minor injuries in the crash, but no one else was injured in the incident.

Roof Hangs Imbalanced

Meanwhile, officials from Kayu — an importer of high-end wood flooring products — were trying to determine how to repair its warehouse so that it could get it back into service. Right now is the company’s busiest time of year, so every day the warehouse can’t be used represents a huge loss in profits.

City building inspectors, fire officials and structural engineers were attempting to shore up the roof so that it was stable enough for the building to be occupied. They were also trying to protect the interior of the building from further damage from rain and other weather elements.

Forklifts and Structural Supports

Operating forklifts near support beams, load bearing walls and other support structures is inescapable. But given a forklift’s enormous weight and speed, even the smallest of collisions can have the most disastrous of consequences. In this instance, the company may have dodged a bullet. But that may not be the case next time, especially if drivers fail to follow proper safety procedures.

Forklift safety is serious business:

  • About 20,000 workers are seriously injured in forklift-related accidents every year in the US.
  • 25% employees are seriously injured in warehouse forklift-related incidents in th US every year.
  • And about 100 employees are killed in warehouse forklift-related incidents in the US every year.

Forklift Operator Safety Training

When it comes to forklift safety, education is the key to success. And it’s not only a good idea, it’s also the law.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that any company using a forklift provide safety training and certification for anybody who will be operating the vehicle.

While the federal agency doesn’t specifically say what kind of training or how many hours of education are required, the burden of making sure that drivers are knowledgeable about the safe operation of forklifts falls squarely on the company.

Federal inspectors probably aren’t going to make surprise visits to your business to see if you have certification that the training has taken place (although you never can know for sure), but it’s a sure bet that if there is a forklift accident at your business and a worker is injured or even killed, OSHA will be there demanding that you prove you trained your workers on how to safely operate a forklift.


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