According OSHA’s Fatality and Catastrophes report, at least 42 employees have died in the first nine months of 2015 due to injuries sustained from a forklift. Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries has published information indicating that there are 35,000 serious injuries as well as 62,000 non-serious injuries each year in the U.S. alone. A brief online search will uncover a large number of incident reports involving forklifts, most from being crushed when the vehicle tips over, crushed between the vehicle and a surface or being struck by a forklift. There are many factors that can contribute to forklift incidents including:
Operators who are not properly trained
Traveling too fast
Driving with the load elevated too far
Allowing passengers to ride on the forklift or its load
Not keeping the equipment in good working order
There are a variety of types of forklifts used within the United States including Narrow Aisle trucks in which the operator stands on a platform (most common in warehouses and commercial settings), Counter-Balance trucks in which the operator sits down to operate the vehicle and motorized hand pallet jacks (yes, these are considered forklifts). There are also tractors and rough terrain units available. Most types of forklifts are available both with electric and internal combustion engines. Each type has its own specific concerns and requirements.
It is especially important that employees who operate forklifts in their workplaces be frequently evaluated for safe operating behavior. OSHA requires an operator be evaluated once every three years, but Baron recommends reviewing operators’ skills on an annual basis at a minimum. This includes employees who operate powered pallet jacks.
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has an excellent guide on Forklift Safety that explains the concepts of forklift use in an understandable, easy to read manner at www.lni.wa.gov/IPUB/417-031-000.pdf.