Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forklift Accidents and MN Workers’ Comp.

Forklifts are extremely important and useful machines in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, warehousing, production, steelwork, construction, factories, and shipping industries. Unfortunately, forklift accidents are all too common, and often result in serious or catastrophic injuries to workers.

Each year, about 100 workers are killed in the United States, and an additional 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift accidents. Forklift accidents can be caused by:
  • Tipping over. Carrying loads that are too heavy can cause a forklift to overturn. Forklift overturns are the most common cause of fatalities involving forklifts. Forklifts that tip over can crush nearby workers, or crush the worker operating the forklift.
  • Falling objects. Forklift drivers can be seriously injured or killed by objects falling and hitting the driver while operating a forklift. If the forklift is operated in a confined area, the risk of hitting something with the forklift or with the load, which then falls onto the driver is magnified. Falling loads can also seriously injure or kill workers who are near the forklift. 
  • Driver Ejection. Falling from a forklift is one of the most common causes of forklift fatalities for workers. 
  • Being struck by a forklift. Another common cause of forklift-related deaths is when a nearby worker is struck by a forklift. This can happen when a worker fails to notice an oncoming forklift, or if the forklift does not have signal alarms. 
  • Lifting workers. Forklifts are not designed to be used to elevate workers. Should the operator lose control, a worker elevated on a forklift can fall and be seriously injured or killed. 
  • Poor Driving Conditions. Poor visibility, narrow pathways, obstructed intersections, obstacles, and unsafe floor or ground conditions can all cause forklift accidents. 
There are several things that employees can do to minimize the risk of forklift accidents:
  1. No unauthorized operators. Forklift operators must have specific training for the type of forklift they are using, the type of materials they are handling, and the type of environment they are working in. Untrained operators are at much greater risk for causing injury to themselves or others when they operate forklifts. In addition, it is illegal for persons under the age of 18 to operate a forklift.
  2. Careful load handling. Operators and workers should stack and secure the load so that it will not shift during transport. When the forklift is in motion, the load should be carried as low as possible. 
  3. Keep clear of the load. A raised load on a forklift is a hazard to anyone close enough to it to be struck if it falls. Forklift operators and other workers need to make sure to stay out from directly under the load, as well as far enough from the sides and the front of the load if the load rolls or the force of trajectory of a moving load forces throws it forward.
  4. Use the correct forklift. Depending on the conditions, i.e., indoor or outdoor; rough terrain or smooth concrete; the size of the load, the forklift must be the appropriate equipment for the situation.
  5. Be aware of the terrain. The terrain affects the balance and handling of a forklift. Rough patches or potholes can cause tip-overs. Forklift operators need to know how to operate on inclines, around corners, and on the specific type of terrain. Workers operating forklift operators need to know how to operate the forklift in different types of weather conditions, such as rain, snow, or ice. 
  6. Maintain visibility. Markings at the edges of loading docks and other areas where forklifts could roll off should be clearly marked and should include other precautions such as guardrails or chains. Forklift operators coming and going from outside to inside should be aware that the change in lighting from sunlight to indoor light can cause visibility difficulties when they first enter a building. Materials at corners should not be so high that a forklift operator’s visibility of the intersection is obstructed. Mirrors should be used to help operators and pedestrians see around corners.
  7. Keep forklift areas separate from pedestrian areas. One of the most common types of forklift accident involves workers who are on foot who are hit by forklifts or falling loads. Where possible, forklifts should be operated in areas separate from workers who are on foot. 
If you’ve been involved in a forklift accident at work in Minnesota, you may be entitled to Minnesota workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expense benefits, wage loss benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and permanent partial disability benefits. If you are hurt at work, make sure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to. For a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your workers’ compensation case, contact Meuser & Associates at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email.
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