Developed in the early 20th century, the lift truck is one of the most important and widely used pieces of equipment to lift and transport materials for short distances.
The terms forklift truck, fork truck, and lift truck are interchangeable, although technically lift truck is a more accurate description because not all vehicles of this type are equipped with forks.
There are a wide variety of lift trucks: counterbalance forklifts, narrow aisle trucks, reach trucks, order pickers, stackers, pallet trucks, sideloaders, and tow tractors. They are used to raise, lower, or remove pallets, boxes, crates, or other containers.
Since it’s such an indispensable piece of equipment in places like warehouses or construction sites, lift trucks are often involved in serious accidents and injuries.
How Many Fork Truck Accidents Happen Each Year?
Forklifts can be dangerous pieces of machinery and come with some pretty grim accident statistics. Although lift trucks only account for 1% of warehouse and factory accidents, the injuries that result from the accidents are much more serious, accounting for 10% of all physical injuries.
Here are some forklift accident statistics to give you an idea of how dangerous these machines can be when operated:
- Forklift and industrial truck accidents result in about 34,900 injuries annually.
- Of these injuries, nearly 8,000 involved forklifts.
- Forklifts are involved in an average of 85 deaths each year.
- Most non-fatal forklift injuries happened to men (88%) and to operators between the ages of 25 to 34.
- An average of 7% of workers missed work each year due to a forklift-related injury.
- Fatal forklift injuries affected men (99%) and 55 to 64-year-olds the most.
- Roughly 1 person is killed in a forklift accident every three days in the U.S.
- Most forklift deaths occur when the operator tries to escape a lift truck that is rolling over.
- One-quarter of warehouse injuries happen on the loading dock.
- OSHA found that 25% of forklift accidents are due to inadequate operator training.
What Are the Most Common Types of Lift Truck Accidents?
The most common type of incident is a forklift overturning, accounting for 24% of lift truck accidents and 25% of fatalities. When a forklift falls over, some drivers try to escape rather than staying inside the vehicle, putting them in harm’s way.
Other accidents involve pedestrian injuries, being struck by a powered vehicle, being struck by fallen materials or objects, falls to a lower level, or being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects.
What Kind of Injuries Occur Due to Lift Truck Accidents?
The most common injuries that result from lift truck accidents are fractures, contusions, sprains/muscle tears, and pain. Amputations represent 1% of forklift injuries.
Why Are Forklifts So Dangerous?
There are multiple reasons why forklifts can be a workplace hazard and it has to do with their unique design. Lift trucks can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and travel up to 18 mph.
Lift trucks only have front brakes, which makes it harder for them to stop. To balance loads in the front, forklifts are heavier in the back, which creates an uneven weight distribution.
To turn, a forklift uses its rear wheels, causing the back end to swing outward. This is why tipping accidents are so common.
Loads have to be carried in the front of the forklift, which obstructs the operator’s view ahead. When the loads are raised up high, there’s a chance something could go wrong, causing the object or crate to fall.
Factors that contribute to forklift incidents include speeding, riding with a raised load, improper backing up techniques, poor communication, horseplay, or giving rides on a forklift.
Forklift Truck Safety
Forklifts have varying centers of gravity depending on the load they are carrying. Improper training or reckless use of a lift truck can cause serious injuries.
- All forklift operators must at least 18-years-old, and trained and certified to operate a lift truck.
- A forklift operator should never navigate a turn at a high speed with a raised load because centrifugal and gravitational forces will cause a tip-over accident.
- Forklifts should not be used to lift people without being fitted with safety equipment, such as a “cage” or “cherry picker.”
- A warehouse or distribution center should have clear lanes.
- Health workers do not recommend workers who use forklifts treat their chronic or acute pain with opioids.
- The safest place for a forklift operator to be during an accident is to be in their seat with their seatbelt on.
- Keep a safe distance from forklifts whenever possible.
- Make sure an area is well lit and there are no obstructions.
- Proceed with caution near corners, doorways, and narrow aisles. Use the forklift horn at intersections.
- Do not walk near or under raised forks.
OSHA estimates that if companies implemented more strict training policies, 70% of forklift accidents could be prevented.
Filing a Forklift Truck Accident Compensation Claim
If you were hurt in a forklift accident while working, you will need to notify your employer and file a workers’ compensation claim. For help with a claim or to ask questions, talk to one of our forklift accident lawyers.
Our workers’ compensation attorneys have experience handling warehouse and industrial accidents. We can investigate your case and protect your claim in case your employer or the insurance company doesn’t want to cooperate.
We can look into what factors contributed to the lift truck accident, such as lack of proper tools or equipment, improper training, poor maintenance, cluttered aisles, slick ramps or floors, malfunctions, and age of the forklift.
Don’t wait. Take control of your claim and hire Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers who will fight for you.