Forklifts, or powered industrial trucks as they are referred to by OSHA, are a common piece of equipment found in many different industries. These pieces of equipment are primarily used to move materials and come in a variety of makes and models. The two common design types are ones that an individual rides on to operate and the other is a design that is controlled by a walking operator. While the overall design, make, and model will affect what the specific hazards are, this equipment is extremely dangerous when not operated correctly.
Forklift Fatality and Injury Statistics
OSHA Forklift Fatality Statistics
According to OSHA statistics published a couple of years ago, forklifts are responsible for around 85 fatalities in U.S. workplaces annually. According to these statistics, the most common cause for fatalities while operating forklifts are tip-over incidents resulting in the operator being crushed (42%). OSHA also stated that forklifts are responsible for over 34,000 serious injuries as well each year. Because more recent data is not readily available or listed on OSHA’s website it is hard to truly get a sense of fatality and injury numbers relating to forklift operation.
NIOSH Forklift Fatalities Publication
Another credible source worth discussing is an older study published by NIOSH in 2001 which evaluated 1,024 fatal workplace accidents involving forklifts from 1980 to 1994. Of these cases, the four types of incidents responsible for the majority of fatalities were as follows: forklift overturns were responsible for 22% of the fatalities, ground workers struck-by forklifts 20%, victims crushed-by 16%, and falls from forklifts were responsible for 9% of fatalities.
Best Practices to Avoid Forklift-related Fatalities and Injuries
- Only trained and licensed individuals should operate forklifts.
- Always wear your seatbelt while operating forklifts.
- Avoid leading edges such as unprotected loading docks.
- Never attempt to jump from a forklift that is tipping over. Hold onto the steering wheel and keep body parts inside the cab.
- Operate at safe speeds and adjust speed for site conditions and work task being performed.
- Use caution on steep grades.
- Never overload the forklift.
- Travel with the forks close to the ground.
- Never carry or lift passengers with a forklift unless it is designed to do so.
- Eliminate forklift operation in heavy foot traffic areas.
This talk is a high-level overview of fatality statistics, injury statistics, and general best practices for forklift operation. The list of possible hazards can be a long one depending on the work environment and the specific work tasks being performed. Let this information sink in to realize how quickly one of the most useful tools on the job can turn into the cause of a fatality for you or a coworker. Treat forklifts with respect and never become complacent to the very real hazards their operation presents.
- What are some other major hazards we face here that can result in forklift-related injuries?