Workplace Safety to Avoid Forklift Truck Accidents
Forklifts, reach trucks and telescopic handlers are needed at warehouses and distribution hubs to load and unload delivery lorries and to store and stack stock every day. This means they must often operate outside as well as indoors and they will be in close proximity to drivers and loaders, customers, warehouse workers and others.
Employers at these places must make sure that they have proper systems for keeping forklifts away from pedestrian traffic. So there will need to be designated traffic routes and pedestrian walkways, with floor markings, warning signs, notices and barriers. Speed limits must be imposed and observed. This all requires thought and a proper assessment of the logistics, to arrange the workplace so that it is efficient and productive but also as safe as possible.
The average forklift truck (or FLT) weighs about 7000 lbs and will carry loads of between 1 and 5 tonnes, up to a height of 24 feet. It, therefore, has the potential to do a lot of damage and must be properly maintained. Daily checks should be carried out and logged, especially of the loading mechanism and the safety features, such as the warning siren, flashing lights and rear view mirrors. Any defect or malfunction with these parts could lead to a serious forklift accident.
Perhaps more important than the safety of the vehicle is the safety of the driver, because most forklift accidents are caused by human error. The operator must be trained and qualified to drive a forklift and must be familiar with the particular type of truck he is assigned to. The training is not limited to the use of the vehicle; it must also include the processes involved, the safe methods of loading, unloading and stacking, and the layout of the workplace. This training is an on-going process and it is vital to keep it up to date with refresher courses. The driver must also be properly supervised by someone with the qualifications and experience to do that job.
Some forklift accidents are caused by drivers not being fit, through medication, drink or drugs, to drive safely, and the employer should keep and police a policy which outlaws forklift driving whilst under the influence.
There is adequate health and safety legislation in place to prevent accidents involving forklift trucks. There are workplace regulations which impose strict duties in relation to work at height and the arrangement of transport traffic routes, and there is plenty of guidance from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the Forklift Truck Association.[link]
But sometimes the rules are not observed and people are injured in avoidable forklift accidents. In these cases the breach of the relevant regulation can be used to prove the negligence claim against the employer or other person responsible.
Forklift Truck Accidents & Claims
Common accident situations involving forklifts include:
People falling after being incorrectly lifted by a forklift
Reversing forklifts running down pedestrians
Unsecured loads falling from forklifts
Malfunctioning forklift safety equipment
Forklifts colliding with other vehicles or structures
Failure to clear mark traffic routes and failure to observe traffic routes
Driver error caused by inattention, lack of experience or drink or drugs
Injuries caused by forklift trucks are often very serious. Head and brain or spinal injuries can result where a person is dropped from height or where a load falls onto them. Being run over by a forklift can cause devastating orthopaedic and degloving injuries, often leading to amputation.
With the more serious injury cases there is likely to be an investigation by the HSE or Local Authority, and where there is clear evidence of safety breaches they will prosecute. This usually provides helpful evidence that can be used in the civil claim.
A recent case study
In 2011 we acted for Mr R, a lorry driver who worked for a building suppliers. He reported to the depot every morning and colleagues would load his lorry with a forklift truck. One day he was walking across the yard, between the warehouse and his lorry, and he passed behind the back of a stationary forklift truck. As he did so, the forklift reversed and ran over his legs. He suffered several fractures and loss of tissue and muscle which required skin grafting, and he needed extensive physical and psychological rehabilitation. He claimed that he did not hear any siren or see any flashing lights and that there was no safe walkway he could use. His employers argued that the forklift was working correctly and the cause of the accident was Mr R walking too close to the vehicle and not paying attention. After legal proceedings the defendants eventually conceded liability and the case settled for nearly £100,000.
Forklift Accident Injury Claims
At Osbornes we have built up over the years a wealth of experience in dealing with forklift accident claims, and are confident that in most cases we will be able to prove breaches of safety regulations to allow the claim to be brought successfully.
Contact Partner Stuart Kightley or solicitor Michael Cockings for free initial advice on whether you have a claim.