Little Forklift Injuries

The Big Cost of Little Forklift Injuries

On this and our Forklift Accessories blog, we often stress the importance of forklift safety. Most of our articles focus on the “big” injuries caused by forklift tip-overs, unsafe driving, and just plain foolish practices such as using forks alone as a “personnel lift.” These are all important issues, but what about the cost of  “little” forklift injuries? What are they? What are their costs? How can they be prevented?

Ergonomics and RSI

Image courtesy of iStock by Getty Images - Photo by Filip_Krstic

Image courtesy of iStock by Getty Images – Photo by Filip_Krstic

RSI, or Repetitive Stress Injury, is a major problem in both office and industrial settings. Basically, RSI occurs when a worker repeats the same activity continually over a period of years.

One early RSI sufferer was a man named Chester Carlson, who worked as a patent analyzer in the 1920s. His tedious work took a slow toll on his health, leaving him nearsighted and arthritic. Rather than let his condition worsen, Carlson invented the copy machine and changed the office work environment forever.

Just as Chester Carlson took a negative experience to create change for the better, the science of ergonomics studies RSI, lower back pain, and other disorders and finds ways to overcome them. These “little” disorders are numerous and most of them can be found in any working environment. Technically called “musculoskeletal disorders” (MSD), typical symptoms include:

• Pain or tingling in the hands or feet
• Joint pain
• Chronic lower backache
• Neck pain
• Stiffness and decreased range of motion
• Decreased grip strength
• And other disorders not associated with illness or injury

In the warehouse or factory, these disorders are caused by a number of things, including:

• Frequent and/or repetitive handling of materials
• Improper posture when lifting heavy items
• Vibrations
• Poor seating and/or posture
• Awkward working postures
• Poor lighting
• Repetitive movements


With the exception of injuries such as back pain caused by improper posture, none of these things cause injuries or disorders in the short term. Over time, though, they can be debilitating. Less noticeable until they become severe enough to demand attention is the slow decline in productivity they cause as the conditions worsen. According to some estimates, these “little” injuries cost billions of dollars annually in lost productivity alone.

Preventing “Little” Injuries

Forklift operators are prone to many of these so-called “little” injuries for a variety of reasons. Lower back pain and painful sciatica are often caused by poor seating. In fact, sciatica can be caused by something as little as sitting at an office desk with your wallet in your back pocket.

Forklift seats are often used until they are so broken they have to be replaced. In the meantime, though, they can become so out of shape that they make the operator unable to sit in a balanced position. This is like sitting at a desk with your wallet in your back pocket. Worse, the vibrations from the forklift come straight through the seat and can be a direct cause of a number of musculoskeletal disorders. A well-padded, ergonomically designed suspension seat can help prevent back pain and other MSD disorders.

Forklift operators often have to turn around and look behind them while operating their vehicles. This is an example of repetitively using an awkward working posture. One way to prevent RSI or immediate injury is to simply install a backup handle to give the operator greater comfort and stability when reversing.


Don’t underestimate the big cost of little forklift injuries. Visit our sister site, and you will find dozens of inexpensive products that help reduce strain and injury.

About Marie Q.

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