Forklifts are one of the most frequently used pieces of equipment in the U.S., with an estimated 856,000 forklifts (also known as “lift trucks” or “powered industrial trucks”) in operation at any given time. So it stands to reason that forklift accidents are among the leading cause of injuries on construction and industrial sites.
In Arizona, forklift accidents are frequent – and sometimes fatal. The most common forklift injuries include:
• Vehicle tip-overs, crushing the operator
• Crushing injuries to a worker between the vehicle and another surface
• Crushing injuries to a worker between the forklift and another vehicle
In April 2011, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that forklift accidents claim about 100 lives every year in the United States, with an additional 34,900 individuals obtaining serious injuries and 61,800 individuals experiencing minor injuries.
Due to the risks involved, the OSHA standards require that all forklift operators be trained and authorized to drive the specific model used. In addition, the standards require that a forklift operator complete a daily inspection before operating the vehicle.
Last year alone, OSHA issued more than 2,900 citations and about $2 million in penalties for violations involving forklifts.
The number of injuries related to construction and industrial accidents rises almost every year. No one plans an accident, so whether you’ve been around forklifts for a month or 10 years, it’s a good idea to regularly review safety precautions.
Safety Maintenance News provides these forklift safety tips. ADOSH recommends that they be regularly reviewed with forklift operators:
• Watch where you place your hands and feet. Be aware of and stay clear of pinch points such as the wheels and lift gears.
• If your truck starts to tip over, don’t jump. Stay in your seat, grip the wheel securely and brace yourself with your feet.
• Always look out for others when moving and operating your forklift.
• When operating the forklift watch out for pedestrians, blind intersections and drive slowly.
• No one may walk or stand under the forks when in a raised position,
• Do not allow anyone to ride with you on the lift unless it is made for more than one person.
• Forklifts are not elevators. Do not lift anyone unless you are using a special basket designed for lifting personnel.
• Fluids from a forklift can leak out overnight on the area where you park it and make the surface slick. Check for fluids when you get on and off a forklift to prevent a slip and fall.
• Do not let unauthorized persons operate your forklift. Remove the key when the forklift is unattended.
• Use your horn when backing up, at intersections, when going through doors and anywhere you have limited or blocked vision.
• Use your seat belt and check that the warning lights and backup alarm work before operating the machine. (Failing to wear a seat belt is one of the most frequently issued citations related to forklift operation.)
• Remember that you are the most important safety device on a forklift. Don’t operate a forklift if you are sleepy, distracted or feeling ill.
Arizona laws dictate what claims can be made when somebody is injured while they are working. Many people believe that if they are injured while on the job in Arizona, the only course of action is to file a workers’ compensation claim. This is not always true!
It is true that workers’ compensation and premises liability protects most of our workers. This protection is important. However there are many times when Arizona workers’ compensation is not adequate. And there are many times that there is a better remedy. When a third party caused the injury – not a coworker but somebody who worked for separate company or from a dangerous product that was used at work – there are other remedies available. In addition, employers are required to meet certain standards and to do certain things in order to have the protection of workers compensation. Where an employer fails to do what is required, such as posting adequate notice to the workers or providing the availability to “opt out” of the workers’ compensation system, the worker still may have the right to file a lawsuit for negligence.
There is no question that there are many times that the workers’ compensation system is a huge benefit to workers. There are many times where even if one could “opt out” of workers’ compensation it would not be to their benefit. This may even be true in a large percentage of cases. However, it is always advisable to speak with an attorney prior to making this determination. If you or someone that you love has been injured while they are at work, please feel free to give us a call.