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Anyone who operates a forklift professionally understands that the occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA, is the U.S. government agency that has jurisdiction over forklift safety.
Occasionally, the agency offers violation reports pertaining to forklift accidents in the United States. Whether or not you are a frequent reader of these reports, one thing is certain. The OSHA accident reports show that there are a number of ways people can get hurt during a forklift accident.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a section of the U.S. Department of Labor. It compiles statistics on the number of fatalities that occur each year in the United States due to forklift accidents.
The statistics show that from 2011 to 2017, between 75 and 94 workers have been killed each year due to forklift accidents. As many as 7,000 workers are injured per year.
Although no trends can be detected from the accounts. However, one thing is for sure. Forklift accidents occur regularly. Reasons for these accidents are commonly a lack of proper training of the forklift operator and neglect in the oversight and compliance with forklift safety.
While it is not legally required for forklift accidents be reported to the government, many are. And this provides OSHA with the opportunity to investigate them. A review of these incidences allows one to see descriptions of the types of accidents that occur and how OSHA takes action against employers who violate rules.
Typical Types Of Forklift Accident Injuries
The largest number of forklift accidents that result in injury of employees is classified as transportation accidents. One major transportation mishap that fits into this category is the overturn or tip over of a forklift. These types of accidents can result in injuries to the forklift driver as well as people who happen to be nearby when the accident occurs. In fact, it is not uncommon for these types of accidents lead to workers being struck by the lift. There are some occasions when these accidents result in deaths.
The OSHA reports have helped to identify other common ways employees can be hurt in a forklift mishap. They include:
• Workers being pinned between the forklift and another object or a wall.
• Employees falling off a forklift.
• An employee is thrown from a forklift due to a tip over.
• The forklift runs over an employee.
Government Rules That Protect Workers From Forklift Accidents
Since OSHA is the government agency of record that has jurisdiction over forklift accidents, the agency has safety rules that employers must follow.
The rules are part of OSHA regulations 29 CFR 1910.178. The rules include:
• All forklifts must meet certain design and safety standards.
• High Lift Rider trucks shall be fitted with an overhead guard to prevent occupational injury.
• The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a forklift safely and that he or she complies with training programs requirements and safety management and safety programs specific to forklifts.
• Employers should not allow anyone to walk beneath the elevated portion of a truck.
• Employees should be provided personal protective equipment.
It is sad to say that not all employers follow the rules.
OSHA Penalties For Employers Who Break The Rules
Investigation reports show us how OSHA penalizes employers for breaking their rules. OSHA commonly investigates an incident and determines an enforcement action when a serious injury or death is involved.
In 2018, OSHA completed 75 accident investigations. Only six of these accident involved situations where workers were killed.
Here is a list of some of the different types of forklift injuries that are included in the reports.
• Penalty for USD15,900 from the South Caroline Office of OSHA (October 2019) – Workers were using a front-end loader to haul mulch material. There was a collision and a worker was pinned by the tire of the forklift. The employer received five violation items, including three serious violations.
• Penalty for USD27,846 from the San Antonio Office (July 2029) – The employee was operating a forklift with an attachment. The forklift tipped over, ejecting the employee from the cab of the lift. He hit his head on the mast and was killed. The employer was found to have exposed the employee to an unsafe workplace with a crushing hazard.
• Penalty of USD19,322 from the Wichita Office (June 2019) – The employee was working for a company that was drilling residential water wells. He raised the mast of the forklift and it came into contact with overhead power lines. He was electrocuted and killed. The company was fined for violating several OSHA rules relating to electrical safety.
• Penalty of USD17,050 from the Dallas Office (May 2019) – An employee was driving a “tugger.” He drove into a forklift that was parked that had its forks raised. The “tugger” driver was killed in the collision. The employer was found to have committed two serious safety violations.
These are just a few examples of what violations leave employers vulnerable to fines and other penalties.
Legal Options After A Forklift Mishap
Families impacted by the injury of death of a member must determine who and what was responsible for the forklift accident. If the accident resulted from a defect in the forklift, the family may file a product liability lawsuit against the forklift manufacturer. If the accident was a result of gross negligence on the part of an employer, the employee or their estate may file a lawsuit against the employer outside of the workers’ compensation system.