Recently the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined a California company over $60,000 for multiple safety violations. The violations resulted in a deadly workplace forklift incident in which a 60-year-old man unnecessarily lost his life. OSHA’s investigation revealed that the employer could have prevented the fatality had the employer followed guidelines and ensured a safe workplace for all its employees.
Industrial workplaces — such as retail, construction, and warehouses — commonly use forklifts to lift and move heavy materials, like lumber, pallets, furniture and boxes. For the very reasons that they are useful, forklifts can also be quite dangerous. As with much heavy machinery, there are risks of machine tip overs, defective and dangerous designs, as well as the chance of accidentally dropping heavy loads.
In the case of the 60-year-old man, after its investigation, OSHA found that the employer could have prevented his death had safety standards been in effect. As the employee was descending a ramp carrying bags of mortar, one fell off the forklift and blocked its front wheel. When the forklift operator put the vehicle into reverse, one of the forklift’s back wheels slipped off the end of a ramp and the vehicle began to tip over. Although the man tried to jump out and free himself from danger, the 10,000lb forklift tipped over and crushed him to death.
OSHA cited the employer for multiple safety violations. In an official statement, the administration said that the employer should have provided adequate forklift safety training to employees by teaching them that in the case of a tip over, they should stay in the vehicle with their seatbelts fastened. In addition, had the employer secured the warehouse ramp properly with an 8-inch curb the machine’s back wheel would not have slipped in such a way, perhaps preventing the tip over.
OSHA estimates that forklift accidents injure 20,000 workers annually and kill at least 100 people. Because of how dangerous the machines can be, the most common injuries that they cause are broken bones, spinal injuries, neurological impairment, permanent paralysis, cognitive disabilities and head injuries. Crushing injuries most often result in fatal injury or permanent disability. Although some are able to recover from an accident, recuperation can often involve major surgical procedures, physical and cognitive therapy, ongoing medical treatment and prescriptions, and in some cases, even assisted living or mobility devices.
Employers are legally responsible for ensuring that their employees are working in a safe atmosphere and receiving proper training for all machinery. When it comes to forklifts, it is necessary for employers to certify operators to use the machines. OSHA has more requirements for safety, some of which we have listed below:
To view all of OSHA’s safety requirements for forklift maintenance, training and operation, please click here.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of a dangerous or defective forklift, please call the knowledgeable Philadelphia forklift accident lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP. With offices located in Philadelphia, Reading, Lancaster, and Bethlehem, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.