Forklift Fatalities and Accidents in the Workplace: How to Prevent Them

forklift driver in protective vest driving forklift at warehouse of freight forwarding company

A mountain of cheese trapped a man for nine hours because of an accident involving a forklift. The man was the operator of the forklift in a cheese warehouse in Market Drayton, Shropshire. A chain of events led to the warehouse’s shelves toppling over like dominoes.  The collapsing shelves buried the operator under an enormous pile of 20-kilogram blocks of cheese.

Emergency responders and 70 members of the local firefighting brigade spent hours trying to extricate the forklift operator. It took them nine hours to rescue the man from under the cheesy pile.

Although this accident involving a forklift ended on a high note, many other incidents involving the cargo vehicles are not as fortunate. Addressing them will go a long way in improving safety standards in the United Kingdom.

Forklifts Fatalities

Forklifts are a necessity in loading and unloading efforts.  Like skate and track loading systems, forklifts make moving heavy objects, such as pallets and cargo much easier. However, without proper precautions, they can ruin the lives of workers and pedestrians alike.

Because of the sheer size and weight of even the smallest forklift, these accidents tend to have lasting and harmful effects on those involved. According to one article, five people get into forklift accidents every working day, and they account for 25 per cent of transport injuries in the workplace. Approximately 1,300 workers in the United Kingdom go to hospital sporting serious injuries due to a forklift every year. Their injuries range from degloved skin, dislocated joints, complex fractures, and amputated limbs.

Forklifts are slightly more dangerous to people in their path. Pedestrians make up 57 per cent of people that were hurt or killed in accidents involving forklifts. This could be because of human error or that walkways and paths in the area do not have clear markings. Another common accident is when a forklift falls off a loading dock. This usually happens when a forklift is loading or unloading cargo from a truck and it moves due to inertia or a mistake from the driver.

These accidents not only cost companies money and time, but it also costs employees their livelihood and in extreme cases, their lives.

Addressing Forklift Failures

Forklift driver talking with his manager in a large warehouse

The best way to prevent forklift accidents is to focus on the training of their would-be operators. The law requires that forklift operators are of school-leaving age and receive training that covers at least the following topics:

  • The basic skills and information they need to operate their new vehicle safely
  • Any specific requirements of their job and workplace
  • More sessions under close supervision during their work hours

Aside from the operators, the pathways that forklifts routinely use in the workplace should have clear demarcations. This will make it less likely that pedestrians would step into the path of an oncoming forklift. The pathways must also have adequate clearance on all sides to prevent collisions with furniture and people.

Experts must identify and clearly mark established danger zones, such as the loading area. The danger zone surrounding a truck loading zone could be as large as 50 feet. They need to think about the size of the cargo involved, the size of the forklift that is going to unload it and its movement after. Once these areas have clear markings, workers can stay out of them during operations.

Forklifts, like all tools, can be as dangerous as they are helpful. Through proper protocols and vigilance, people can reduce the risks of using them and use them to their full potential.