Every four days, someone is killed in a forklift accident in the U.S., with pedestrians accounting for about 36% of these deaths. The National Safety Council reported that almost 7,300 non-fatal work-related injuries occurred due to forklift accidents in private industries.
In 2020, forklifts are considered dangerous machinery due to their large size and complex design. A forklift can weigh anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 pounds but an average forklift usually weighs around 2.5 tons or 9,000 pounds. Forklifts are intended to carry heavy loads as well as navigate through tight and crowded warehouses. These machines are designed to distribute more weight in the back of the forklift to compensate for the weight applied to the front. Forklifts are equipped with only front brakes, which makes sudden stops more difficult to complete. Further, by only having steering mechanisms in the rear wheels, there is a likelihood that the forklift can overturn.
Improper use of forklifts contributes to thousands of workplace injuries every year. The leading cause of these accidents is a lack of training and poor operating practices such as speeding, inaccurate turning, and poor equipment maintenance. Rollovers are the most prevalent kind of forklift accident, attributing to 25% of all forklift accidents. These accidents can occur due to improperly placed loads, transporting a load that exceeds the forklift’s maximum capacity, improper braking, and attempting to make sharp or abrupt turns.
Most forklifts have a maximum speed of only 18 miles per hour. However, due to their enormous size, even at low speeds a collision with a pedestrian can inflict serious harm. Other typical forklift accidents include on-foot workers being struck or run over, employees falling out of or from the forklift, and pedestrians being crushed against a wall or another object by the forklift. These kinds of accidents can lead to crushed, fractured, or broken bones, severe internal damage to organs, head, and spinal cord injuries, and even death.
Forklift operators themselves are also in danger of being injured in an accident. When a rollover occurs, the driver becomes crushed between the wall and the forklift itself. A lack of harnesses or seat belt restraints can also cause the operator to be ejected from the forklift. These accidents can result in substantial physical harm including fractures, internal bleeding, and severe organ damage as a result of being crushed, traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal cord injuries due to the impact and force of the accident, dislocated and broken bones, fractures and contusions to limbs such as the arms, legs, hands, and feet.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 70% of all forklift accidents are avoidable if specific safety precautions are adhered to. The administration also requires that all forklift operators have sufficient training and certification before operating such heavy machinery. Your employer is obligated to only employ a certified forklift operator to maneuver the forklift to protect you and other employees. To ensure the minimization of forklift accidents, OSHA recommends that workers be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, gloves, bright reflective vests, and additional materials that are necessary for safety. Moreover, it is recommended that regular inspections of forklifts be done as well as regular maintenance, signs to be put up around the workspace such as stop signs and reminders of expected safety procedures and protocols, as well as guard rails installed to avoid rollovers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a forklift accident in New York it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced attorney to discover all your legal options as soon as possible. Our law firm has skilled attorneys who can assist you in receiving the compensation that you deserve.