Forklift accidents are common and often deadly. To that end, an estimated 100 workers are killed, and 20,000 injured each year in forklift-related accidents.
Employees are often injured or killed when forklifts:
Drive off loading docks
Fall between docks and an unsecured trailer
Strike employees working nearby
As a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer, I have scene a large increase in the amount of accidents caused when forklifts enter or exit tractor trailers and the truck moves forward . Consequently,the forklift and operator fall off the the loading dock, causing serious injury to the worker.
Trailer creep and trailer pull away have long been recognized as a problem in dock operations. There are a number of companies that manufacture vehicle restraints to prevent trailer movement. If restraint systems are not used, trailers must be properly chocked to prevent movement as required in OSHA standards 29 CFR 1910.178(k)(1) and 29 CFR 1910.178(m)(7). To assist in the prevention of accidents, employers must set safe work practices for employees involved in trailer-to-dock operations, and enforce those rules consistently. Employers must have some system to make sure that truck drivers do not pull away while powered industrial trucks are loading or unloading.
In a recent case I represented an individual who was hurt on the loading docks at Miami International Airport. My client’s employer had a system in place that required truck drivers to sign a form that their vehicle had been chocked and the air brake was in place. The driver signed the form, and my client proceeded to unload a container from the trailer. As soon as my client rolled the forklift into the trailer, the trailer moved and my client fell off the dock.
The defendant truck driver and his employer originally denied liability for this accident. It was not until I deposed the truck operator that he admitted he had not properly chocked his vehicle. The case settled shortly thereafter.
Most accidents are caused when people are in a hurry. Perhaps employers are asking less workers to do more, and thus the rise in forklift accidents.
Violations of OSHA’s powered industrial truck standard rank in the top 10 most frequently violated OSHA standards each year. In 2009, OSHA issued over 2,909 citations, most of which were related to training. Total penalties were close to $2 million.
To meet OSHA requirements and avoid citations and penalties, operators need to be well trained. OSHA’s standard has specific requirements for operator training that require a combination of formal training with practical instruction, as well as an evaluation and certification process.
The standard also says that only those who have the knowledge, training, and experience on the type of forklift being trained on can provide this training. It also specifies a long list of required training topics. Trainers should refer to the OSHA standard to make sure all the required subject matter is covered.
Once trained, operators need refresher training and evaluation at least every 3 years, and more often for operators who have a record of accidents or near-misses.