Forklift Accident

Have you started a new job as a forklift operator? Or maybe you have just purchased a forklift for your business? Are you aware of the forklift accident statistics?

The number of forklift truck accidents every year is quite shocking. Some of these accidents have resulted in serious injury and workers have even been killed. A significant number of people are unfortunate enough to be involved in forklift-related incidents every year in the US.

Carry on reading to find out about the most frequently occurring forklift accidents, their causes, and also how they can be prevented.

Forklift Accident Statistics

Forklift trucks are a type of material handling equipment used in workplaces such as on a construction site and in a warehouse. Let us take a look at the forklift accident stats compiled by the National Safety Council (NSC) with data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Key Statistics

  • Between 2011 and 2019, a staggering 888, 220 forklift accidents were recorded.
  • In 2019 8,140 non-fatal workplace-related injuries were recorded, this is the highest number of injuries recorded in a year for almost a decade.
  • In 2019, the majority of forklift-related injuries, 86.6%, occurred in male workers.
  • In 2019, a total of 79 deaths were recorded.
  • The worst year since 2011 for deaths caused by forklift accidents was 2018, with 85 fatalities recorded.
  • 2011 showed the lowest number of recorded forklift fatalities, at 66 people, and the lowest number of non-fatal injuries, at 6,130 reports.
  • Most injuries occurred in males, with only 13.4% of non-fatal injuries occurring in females.
  • The majority of forklift accident fatalities were in males, with less than 1% occurring in females.
  • Most non-fatal injuries occurred in workers aged between 25 to 54 years old.
  • Fatal injuries were higher amongst workers aged 55 to 64 years old.

Types Of Injuries

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2019, the most common types of lift truck-related injury were sprains, strains, and tears (1650 reports), fractures (1540 reports), bruises and contusions (1330 reports), cuts and lacerations (740 reports), and other traumatic injuries including multiple traumatic injuries (370 reports) and amputations (100 reports).

Multiple traumatic injuries, internal injuries, and intracranial injuries were the most common causes of the forklift truck accident deaths seen in 2019.

Forklift Warehouse Accidents

Forklift trucks are very commonly used material handling warehouse equipment. As a result, many forklift accidents occur in warehouses. Forklifts can be extremely dangerous when not handled correctly or by well-trained operators and forklift safety is a critical issue in workplaces such as warehouses.

What Are The Main Causes Of Injuries When Using Forklifts?

Unfortunately, there are a large number of different ways in which forklift-related accidents can happen.

The most common forklift accidents causes, which have resulted in injuries involve lift trucks colliding with pedestrians, forklifts rolling over resulting in persons being crushed, loads falling off forklifts and hitting or crushing persons, persons falling off forklifts, and mechanical failure of forklifts.

What Are The Main Causes Of Injuries When Using Forklifts

The leading causes of death are due to forklifts rolling over (22%), pedestrian collisions (20%), being crushed by a forklift (16%), and falls from forklifts (9%).

Why Are Forklifts So Dangerous?

Why Are Forklifts Dangerous

Lift trucks are powerful, heavy machinery, with many models weighing in at over 9000lbs which is several times heavier than the average car.

If they collide with pedestrians or roll over and crush a person then the likelihood of severe injury or death is great.

The weight of the forklift is distributed unevenly which can make them tricky to operate. 

The forklift operator may find it difficult to perform tight turns and maneuverability in small spaces can be hard for some models.

This uneven weight distribution can also cause them to tip over relatively easily as a lot of their mass is at the rear. Lift trucks also turn on their rear wheels making them even more likely to tip over.

Forklift trucks are designed specifically for carrying heavy loads and material handling. Improper lifting of loads onto the forks, overloading materials onto the forks, and elevated heavy loads can increase the risk of accidents. The forks are at the front of the lift truck so the loads are carried here which can sometimes limit the operator's forward view.

Forklift trucks can also drive at high speeds, for the workplaces they are generally used in. They can reach about 18 mph and only have front brakes making it challenging for the operator to stop quickly.

How Can Forklift Accidents Be Prevented?

The majority of common forklift accidents are preventable and there are clear solutions to maximize safe practices. Let us take a look into how some of the common forklift accidents can be prevented.

Proper Training For Forklift Operators

Operating a forklift can be dangerous. A large number of accidents are due to forklift operators lacking in proper safety training.

It's a legal requirement that all forklift drivers must undergo forklift certification and safety training to the required OSHA standards before operating a forklift. 

According to the OSHA, forklift operators must also renew this forklift safety training every 3 years.

Proper Training For Forklift Operators view

Forklift operator training must include specific instruction on the lift truck models that the operator will be driving, including information about the visibility, handling, weight capacity, stability, controls, and instrumentation.

Proper training has to also include relevant details about the workplace environment such as locations of pedestrian traffic areas which should be marked out with floor tape and signs, conditions of the floor surface, areas of particular hazard, or difficult maneuverability.

Proper occupational safety training for forklift operators can prevent accidents, reduce forklift fatalities, and can also save the business money in the long term.

Regular Forklift Maintenance

Operate a strict policy of regular maintenance and proper service of forklifts and material handling or lifting equipment to reduce the risk of mechanical failure and associated accidents. Common accidents and injuries result from problems such as worn or damaged tires, brakes, a non-functioning horn, leaking hoses and valves, and bent forks.

Forklifts and other material handling equipment should be inspected regularly during shifts for signs of wear and tear. If any fault is detected or even suspected then the equipment should not continue to be operated and instead, be sent for repairs.

Preventing Forklift Collisions

Common forklift accidents are collisions with pedestrians. This type of accident tends to happen when the driver is distracted or tired. It is critical that employees are given and take regular breaks during a shift so they can operate properly.

Working conditions must also allow the forklift operator sufficient time and space to react to a situation and there must be adequate warning signs in the workplace. The forklift must be operated at a speed that will allow the driver to stop the truck safely.

Safety solutions such as signs, barriers, and floor tape can be used to mark out designated forklift operating floor areas from pedestrian walkways. Operators must adhere to the speed limit and slow down near high-traffic areas and pedestrian areas marked with floor tape.

Preventing Forklifts From Tipping

Preventing Forklifts From Tipping view

The leading cause of forklift fatalities is accidents are due to forklifts rolling over. Lift trucks are not designed to turn corners at high speed. 

A forklift can easily tip over if the operator does this due to its uneven distribution of weight and rear-wheels steering. 

It is critical forklift operators adhere to the speed limit at all times and that they take extra care to slow down when turning corners in order to maintain control.

Maintaining a low center of gravity maximizes the stability of the forklift so it is imperative the loads are kept low to the ground and that forklift is not driven with the forks loaded in an elevated position, to keep control. Uneven floor surfaces and incorrect loading can also cause a lift truck to tip.

Generally, it is very important to remain in the seat when operating a forklift and use the seat belt, particularly so if the lift truck does begin to tip. The safest place to be is inside the lift truck and leaning in the opposing direction to that of the fall. Avoid jumping out as this is more likely to result in injury. Signs or stickers reminding operators to wear seat belts can be used.

Preventing Loads From Falling

Forklifts can be used to lift significant loads to greatly elevated positions. Not going over the forklift capacity is crucial. If this is done incorrectly, it can be particularly hazardous and accidents are more likely to happen. Loading materials onto the forks evenly and ensuring the load is properly balanced and heavy pallets are centered before the forklift moves is vital. Unbalanced loads can slip and slide quickly causing the loaded pallet to fall. These kinds of accidents at common at the loading dock. Damaged or bent forks can cause a load to fall down so it is critical they are maintained correctly and service is performed regularly.

The load is also at risk of falling if the forklift moves too quickly so the speed limit must be adhered to, slow is safer. Common forklift accidents caused by falling loads can result in particularly serious injuries such as crushing and also deaths.

Maximizing The Forklift Operator's View

Many forklift accidents happen as a result of the driver's forward and rear view being obscured when they are in control of the forklift. This could be due to driving with the load elevated or carrying tall loads, therefore, blocking the line of sight.

Carrying an elevated load should be avoided as it can also reduce the stability of the lift truck and make it more likely to tip over. 

Maximizing The Forklift Operator's View

Also, the view from the rear of a propane-powered lift truck can be partially obscured by the propane tanks.

To minimize the risk of this issue and maximize safety, a spotter can help the forklift operator maneuver around blind corners or if they are transporting a potentially difficult load. The forklift operator should also take extra care to adhere to the speed limit.

Preventing Falls From Forklifts

Workers falling from forklifts is another common cause of injury while operating this type of equipment. The safety of employees is critical and workers should not be unduly rushed and should be given adequate time to properly complete all tasks, in particular the more hazardous ones, for example lifting at the loading dock. Proper safety solutions such as the use of guardrails and other safety equipment should also be employed.

Tim Postlethwaite

Tim Postlethwaite // Staff Writer