The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that 85 workers are killed each year in forklift accidents, while nearly 35,000 more workers suffer serious injuries and almost 62,000 sustain non-serious injuries. Based on these numbers and the fact that there are about 856,000 forklifts in the U.S., the Industrial Truck Association estimates that 1 in 10 forklifts will be involved in an accident each year.
Unfortunately, many of these accidents could have been prevented. They may have resulted from operator error, lack of safety training or equipment or improper maintenance of the machine. Forklift operators and the companies that hire them must be held accountable for this type of negligence when it leads to the death or injury of others.
If you have been hurt or lost a loved one in a forklift accident, the law firm of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. is here to help you. Our Chicago forklift accident attorneys can offer legal guidance and advocacy that’s personalized to your circumstances. Call us today toll free or use our online form to get a free, no-obligation consultation.
Different Types of Forklift Accidents
Forklifts – also called powered industrial trucks – can be highly useful machines. They are commonly used to transport heavy items in construction, manufacturing, shipping yards, ports, convention centers and arenas. But when they are improperly operated or maintained, these machines can be very dangerous.
According to an analysis done by OSHA in the 1990s, the most common type of forklift accident is a tipover. OSHA found the most common causes of these forklift tipovers to be:
- Out of control due to speeding, elevated loads or mechanical problems
- Run off or over the edge of a surface
- Attempted to make too sharp a turn due to excessive speed or unbalanced load
- Worker jumping from an overturning vehicle being pulled by another vehicle
- Skidding or slipping on a slippery surface
- Running over a raised surface or object on one side
- Being struck by another vehicle.
But tipovers aren’t the only type of forklift accident that leads to deaths and injuries. OSHA statistics show other types of dangerous incidents involving these vehicles to be:
- Crushed between the forklift and a surface
- Crushed between two vehicles
- Struck or run over by a forklift
- Struck by material falling from the forklift
- Falling from platform on the forks (4 percent).
Why Do Forklift Accidents Occur?
The primary cause of forklift accidents is operator error. In some cases, an employer may allow an untrained and unlicensed person to operate the forklift – a blatant violation of OSHA standards. But even trained and licensed forklift operators may commit negligent or reckless acts that hurt or kill others. Examples are:
- Traveling at a speed that doesn’t permit the forklift to be safely brought to a stop
- Failing to slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other areas where the operator’s view is obstructed
- Failing to look toward and keep a clear view of the travel path
- Driving up to someone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object
- Allowing a worker to travel on the platform while it’s in operation
- Not using extreme caution when traveling on grades, ramps or inclines
- Failing to properly load and secure cargo on the forklift.
Forklift accidents can also be traced to improper maintenance of the vehicle. OSHA says that forklifts should be examined daily before being placed in service or examined after each shift if the forklift is operated around the clock.
These examinations should check the machine’s brakes, steering and control mechanisms, warning devices, lights, governors, lift overload devices, guard and safety devices, lift and tilt mechanisms, articulating axle stops and frame members, OSHA says.
Also, if the forklift is being operated from an elevated platform, it should feature rails, chains or other restraining means, or else safety equipment such as a body belt should be worn by the forklift operator, according to OSHA.
Liability for Forklift Accidents
The failure to follow OSHA standards for operating forklifts, maintaining them and providing safety equipment can possibly serve as grounds for liability when a forklift accident occurs that results in injury or death. In addition to the forklift operator, the employer (or contractor) may be held liable, as can any other individual or entity that neglected its duty to make sure the forklift was operated in a way that didn’t put others in danger.
A person who is seriously injured in a forklift accident may be entitled to recover money to pay for medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering. Wrongful death benefits may be recovered by those who lose a loved one in a forklift accident. In some cases, especially reckless conduct may be grounds for seeking punitive damages.
Contact a Chicago Forklift Accident Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a forklift accident, you may have a right to compensation for your injuries and losses. Protect your rights by contacting the Chicago forklift accident lawyers of Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your case. We represent injured workers throughout Chicago and Illinois, including residents of Cook and Lake counties. Call us today toll free or use our online contact form.