Forklift Accidents Fatalities On the Rise According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Results from a new study show that deaths associated with forklift accidents are rising. Data was collected over a 15-year period by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under their Traumatic Occupational Fatality surveillance system.

The study showed that forklifts, or powered industrial vehicles, were involved in a significant number of deaths in the workplace. According to the study several different factors contributed to the cause of the Illinois construction site accidents, including the nature of the injury and the decedent’s age, gender, race, occupation, and industry.

Many of the fatalities resulting from forklift overturns might have been prevented if the operators had been restrained with lap or shoulder belts. Careful consideration should be given to separating pedestrian and forklift traffic and restriction of use of forklifts near time clocks, exits and other areas where a large number of pedestrians pass through in a short time.

According to the NIOSH study the average age of a fatally injured worker was 38 years with 1,021 forklift-related deaths resulted in a total of a loss of 27,505 years of production life. The three most common circumstances leading to fatalities were forklift overturns, pedestrians struck by forklifts, and workers crushed by forklifts.

The greatest proportion of fatalities occurred to workers in manufacturing followed by transportation, communication and public utilities. The highest forklift-related fatality rates per ten million workers occurred among transport operatives and laborers.

For example, in a past Kreisman Law Office forklift injury case, a truck driver was severely injured when a forklift driver unexpectedly began lifting a load in the vicinity of the truck driver. The load tumbled off of the forks and the driver was injured. These types of injuries and fatalities can be avoided. Careful consideration of each workplace circumstance combined with earnest safety instructions can reduce the risks associated with forklift use.

Systematic traffic controls that include rules for both pedestrians and forklift traffic must be enforced to reduce the risk of injury and death to forklift users and passer-bys.

OSHA has issued the Final Rule for Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training (29 CFR 1910.178(1)). The standard requires operator training and licensing as well as periodic evaluations of operator performance. The standard also addresses specific training requirements for truck operations, loading, seat belts, overhead protective structures, alarms, and maintenance of industrial forklift trucks. Refresher training is required if the operator is known to operate a forklift truck in an unsafe manner or is involved in a forklift accident or near miss.

Kreisman Law Office has been handling Illinois construction site injury cases and personal injury lawsuits for over 30 years, serving areas of Cook County and Chicago, such as Wheeling, Oak Lawn, Wilmette, and Melrose Park.