The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that 761,400 people in the United States are employed as material moving machine operators, a category that includes forklift drivers. These individuals face significant hazards each day and are highly susceptible to injury.
According to industrial equipment manufacturer McCue, there are 34,900 serious forklift accidents each year. But what are some of the leading causes of forklift accidents, and what steps should an injured party take? We’ll answer those questions and others below.
Causes of forklift accidents
A lack of training and/or experience contributes to a good number of many forklift accidents. The high turnover in warehouses coupled with a heavy demand for workers during peak seasons means that employers are often desperate. As a result, they may hire individuals without experience, or rush them onto the floor without proper training.
Even well-trained, experienced operators could experience an accident when:
• Working in poorly-lit conditions
• Driving on poorly-maintained loading docks
• Operating in areas with no safety rails
• Using equipment that has not been maintained properly
Company culture can also play a role in the number of accidents. For example, employees who work long hours can experience fatigue and a loss of alertness, while those pressured to achieve high production standards may take unnecessary safety risks in order to “get the job done.”
Types of forklift accidents
What are some common types of forklift accidents? One of the most common involves rollovers, which occurs when a forklift falls over on its side. Depending on how it lands, the driver could either be thrown from the vehicle or crushed underneath it.
Picking up too heavy a load can cause the forks to tilt forward. This is known as a tipover, and can cause the forklift to jolt or tip forward. As with a rollover, the driver can be ejected or crushed.
Other ways in which forklift injuries occur include from:
• Falling debris
• An inability to stop
• Collisions with other forklifts or objects
A forklift accident can result in debilitating injuries such as:
• Head concussions
• Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
• Loss of limb
• Broken bones
• Back and shoulder injuries
Actions after a forklift accident
If you are hurt in a forklift accident, do not assume that your injuries are minor. Sometimes, symptoms do not show up for several days or weeks following an accident. Therefore, you should always report the accident to your supervisor and then seek medical attention.
Make sure to document the circumstances surrounding your accident. This can be difficult if your employer won’t allow photographs, so an alternative might be to have someone make a rough sketch of the area. Obtain the names of witnesses, if any. Collect statements from witnesses who are willing to provide them.
File a workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible. The statute of limitations for filing a claim is generally only 30 days. Miss that deadline and you will no longer be able to hold your employer accountable.
How an attorney can help
Workers’ compensation is a “no fault” benefit. This means you cannot be denied benefits, even if you were fully or partially negligent. If you feel you have been unfairly denied benefits, a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help.
You also cannot be retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim. So if you are being harassed, intimated, or threatened, hiring a lawyer can sometimes allow you to preserve your job.
Of course, filing a claim correctly is very important. If you need assistance with filing a claim or are experiencing fallout because you have done so, please contact us. Our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys will fight hard to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.