Forklifts are valuable machines in many industries, from construction sites to warehouses, fulfillment centers and more. If you work on or around forklifts, it might be a good idea to learn about the hazards these machines pose. Thousands of workers nationwide, including in Pennsylvania, suffer forklift-related injuries each year -- some of which are disabling or even fatal.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, forklift accidents and injuries are preventable by compliance with prescribed safety regulations. The agency says employers must inform you and your co-workers of the dangers posed by forklifts. These machines do not only endanger the safety of operators but also pedestrian workers who share the same work area.
Common forklift-related hazards
Many forklift accidents and injuries result from operator errors. OSHA has identified the four most common types of injuries that result from forklift accidents. This makes training an essential requirement -- for both operators and workers on foot. If you learn how to recognize and mitigate these hazards, your chances of returning home safe and uninjured every night might increase.
If you operate a forklift, it is crucial to be aware of the movements of all pedestrian workers, and they must be as aware of you and the route you travel. Most struck-by injuries result from the following:
- Loads that block your view can lead to the forklift running into objects or other workers.
- The path you travel must be clear at all times because debris and randomly placed objects can cause struck-by injuries.
- Always operate on a planned and fixed path because taking any unplanned routes could cause injuries to unsuspecting co-workers.
Striking workers on foot can cause debilitating injuries or even death, and you can prevent such accidents in the following ways:
- Lift or lower loads on the fork to ensure you have a clear view when you drive the forklift.
- Never haul a load that will block your view. If you have no option, it might be better to turn in the seat and drive backward.
- Always use the hooter or another means to warn other workers when you enter through doorways or around corners.
Forklifts are unbalanced because the back of the machine is heavier to counter the weight of the load on the fork. However, each load is different, and it hardly ever leads to a perfectly balanced vehicle. Do not lose sight of the following:
- A forklift is a massive piece of machinery.
- An unbalanced forklift tips over easily.
- If this happens, the operator and any workers close by can be crushed by the forklift.
- Never jump from the forklift if it tips over. You will be safer if you hold onto the steering wheel and brace yourself for impact while leaning away from the ground to prevent injuries to your body and your head.
- If you cannot avoid the tip-over, warn other workers in the vicinity to move away.
Falls from forklifts often occur when other workers catch a ride or during horseplay. You are in control of your vehicle and should not allow any of the following:
- Never allow a non-operator to ride along on the forklift; it is not a passenger transporter.
- Do not ride without personally inspecting the load to make sure it is balanced an adequately secured.
- Do not use the forklift to lift other workers to elevated work areas.
Last but equally important, check the forklift for faulty parts before each work shift, and never skip scheduled maintenance and services. Malfunctions can have catastrophic consequences.
Your workers' compensation rights
If you are a victim of a forklift-related accident, the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance program might cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Utilizing the skills of an experienced attorney to assist with the navigation of the benefits claims process can ensure prompt payment of compensation, allowing you to recover and return to work.