What are the Dangers of Defective Forklifts? August 27, 2021
Forklifts are designed for heavy lifting and maneuvering loads in tight spaces. While forklifts are indispensable in manufacturing, warehousing, trucking, construction, and other industries, their unique design creates hazards for drivers and pedestrians working nearby. About one in 10 forklifts in the U.S are involved in accidents each year, causing many work-related injuries. In some cases, these accidents are the direct result of a defective or damaged forklift.
In addition to obtaining Workers’ Compensation, employees who suffer a serious injury in a work-related accident may have a valid third-party claim against a forklift manufacturer or distributor if the forklift is found to be defective.
It is well known that forklift trucks are prone to accidents. This is why it is incumbent upon forklift manufacturers and distributors to install safety features that will protect workers in the event of an accident. The dangers of defective forklifts include but are not limited to the following:
- Falling out of and getting crushed by a tipping forklift that lacked seat belts and a rollover protection system (ROPS).
- Being struck by material falling from above into an open cab.
- Colliding with the prongs of a forklift that turned or backed up without audible or visible warning signals.
- Getting run over by a forklift because the driver’s view was obstructed.
- Falling from a platform that detached from a forklift.
Most fatal forklift accidents fall into one of these categories. These tragedies can easily be prevented by basic safety features that are readily available on the market today.
Is Driving a Forklift More Dangerous Than Driving a Car?
Several statistics suggest driving a forklift may be two or three times more dangerous than driving a car, including the following:
- Annually, there are about 34,900 forklift accidents that result in serious injury, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Industrial Truck Association (ITA) estimates that there are about 855,900 forklifts in the U.S. This means that over 11 percent of all forklifts in operation will be involved in an accident each year.
- A little more than one percent of all cars are involved in injury-related accidents. Currently, there are more than 290 million cars registered in the U.S., and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about three million people are injured in car accidents each year.
- According to data from the ITA, there is about a 90 percent chance that a forklift will be involved in a fatal accident during its useful life, which is about eight years. Car Insurance estimates that the average passenger car driver files an accident claim approximately once every 17 years.
One reason that driving a forklift can be dangerous is because the vehicles can easily tip over. Also, in a warehouse or construction site, objects from above can fall down on an open cab and injure the driver. A forklift’s load can easily obstruct a driver’s field of vision, increasing the risk of crashing into surfaces or people. Maneuvering a forklift in a crowded warehouse also creates risks for pedestrians who may not notice the vehicle turning a corner or backing up.
What Forklift Safety Features are Needed to Prevent Injuries?
The following forklift safety features are needed to prevent injuries to drivers and pedestrians:
- Seat belts and ROPS that prevent drivers from falling out of the forklift if it tips over.
- Falling object protection systems (FOPS) that shield drivers from objects falling from above.
- Grab handles and seats with arm extensions that help drivers brace themselves if the forklift goes off-balance.
- Convex and rearview mirrors to compensate for blind spots created by loads or other obstructions.
- Horns and other audible alarms to warn pedestrians of a forklift’s presence.
- Flashing lights that alert pedestrians as to the direction in which a forklift is traveling.
- Lighting systems that cast illuminated shapes on the ground to further indicate a forklift’s movements.
- Presence detection systems that disengage the forklift’s drive, and hydraulic functions to prevent it from operating when the driver is not seated.
Lighting systems are particularly important in noisy workplaces with heavy pedestrian traffic. The OSHA requires forklift safety lights if the lighting in the general work area is less than two lumens per foot.
Manufacturers, distributors, and resellers may be held liable for damages if forklifts involved in accidents cause injuries because they lacked these and other basic safety features.
Why Should an Injured Worker Contact a Products Liability Lawyer?
Despite OSHA guidelines and the availability of forklift safety features, forklift accidents continue to occur. Injured workers should contact a products liability lawyer after a forklift accident to find out if a lack of safety features or other equipment defect directly contributed to the cause of injury. If that is the case, the injured worker may be able to file a third-party claim against the forklift manufacturer or distributor in addition to receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits.
All too often, workers are told that an accident was their fault and that Workers’ Compensation will take care of everything. In reality, Workers’ Compensation only covers a portion of lost wages, and it does not address significant issues of pain and suffering.
Workers injured by defective equipment have the right to pursue a products liability claim. Galfand Berger LLP has successfully handled numerous products liability cases involving defective equipment, including the following:
Operating a defective forklift puts workers at unnecessary risk. Our lawyers are committed to holding manufacturers and distributors legally accountable for selling and distributing defective equipment.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Have First-Hand Experience Representing Workers Injured by Defective Forklifts
Forklift accidents happen every day. The cause of many forklift accidents can be traced to a lack of safety features. If you were injured in a defective forklift accident, contact our Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP as soon as possible. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online for a free consultation. We have first-hand experience representing injured workers, and we will leave no stone unturned in our effort to determine the true cause of the accident. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, and we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.