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At about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, November 27, many Americans were gathering with their loved ones for for their annual Thanksgiving feast. But Agnes Anne McKithen, of Timmonsville, South Carolina, was spending her holiday working at the QVC Distribution Center located on TV Road in Florence, South Carolina.
McKithen was working about 30 feet in the air on a forklift and was apparently reaching for something on a high shelf when another forklift came down the aisle and struck her vehicle. Even though McKithen was wearing a safety harness at the time of the collision, she fell approximately 30 feet to the ground, according to police.
The incident illustrates the importance of always following safety rules when operating a forklift. Despite wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment — the harness — it wasn’t enough to save McKithen’s life. The fall caused multiple traumatic injuries and the victim was rushed to an area hospital, where she later died, according to Florence County Coroner Keith von Lutcken.
Community Devastated by Holiday Tragedy
McKithen’s tragic death hit the tight-knit community especially hard because it occurred on a day when most families are celebrating togetherness and fellowship.
One of McKithen’s relatives, Stephanie McGill, used a Facebook post to try to put into words what so many other people were feeling.
“This holiday will never be the same,” McGill wrote. “We lost a precious soul on yesterday. Agnes Carter, one of the sweetest people I know. Rest in paradise, cousin. For all of you who know the word prayer, please pray for the McKithen family.”
McKithen’s husband, Charles McKithen, also took to social media to express his feelings in the wake of his wife’s tragic death.
“You brought me Joy .. with a attitude… love you Baby,” he posted on his Facebook page on Thursday, just hours after his wife’s passing.
The McKithens had gotten married just this past March.
McKithen was a graduate of Timmonsville High School and Florence-Darlington Technical College. It was not immediately known how long she had been working at the QVC facility, which covers 1.4 million square feet and opened in 2007.
The distribution center employs 900 people and ships an estimated 1.4 million packages per year — or an average of more than 10,000 per day.
The South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration was contacted in connection with the accident.
Forklift Safety Guidelines
While the fatal accident is still being investigated, here are some forklift safety tips that can help make your workplace safer:
- Seat belts are there for a reason: To protect the operator in the event of a collision. They must be worn whenever the operator is int the driver’s seat, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.
- There may not be a traffic cop hiding around the corner, but speed limits and stop signs in work places are just as important as they are in the real world. They always must be obeyed without any exceptions.
- Slow down and sound the horn when approaching an intersection or corner.
- When getting off a forklift, always make sure the parking break is set and that the forks are lowered and controls are neutralized, even if you are only stepping off for a moment.
- Passenger must not ride on a forklift unless there is an additional seat, footrest and seat belt. If any of these things are not present, no riders are allowed.
- Order picking platforms must have guard rails to prevent falls. If it is possible for a person to extend their body over the guard or tep from the platform, then a safety harness should be provided. The harness must be attached to a strong anchor point.