When you are working in a warehouse setting, you should obviously be prepared for any dangers. Large pieces of equipment are all around you and many people are working in the same environment, so you must have a watchful eye. But what happens when you share that workplace environment with forklifts? What inherent dangers come with forklifts and what should you be aware of? Lastly, what will you do if you are injured by one of these industrial beasts?
The Dangers of Forklifts
Unfortunately, forklifts do not come without dangers. There are many hazards that these large pieces of moving equipment can pose in the workplace, and as such, safety precautions are necessary in their presence. Four of the most common forklift hazards include attachments, pedestrians, work environment, and loads.
Attachments: Some of the most common forklift attachments include carton clamps, drum clamps, rotators, and push-pull elements. Attachments will extend the length and width of the forklift, as well as change the weight and stability of the machine. This means that a worker may have low visibility when certain attachments are on and may not see everything that is happening around them.
Pedestrians: Most of the accidents involving forklifts that cause injury or fatalities involve pedestrians. Some of these accidents happen because the driver has an obstructed view due to a load in their way, the turning of the forklift toward a pedestrian, speeding so that the forklift cannot stop in time, being unaware of pedestrians in the area, and carrying passengers on the forklift. Any of these situations can end in a dangerous circumstance.
Work Environment: The conditions present in the workplace can have a direct impact on how the forklift operates and whether or not an accident will occur. Operating the forklift around ramps, crossing railroad tracks, operating on slippery floors, or poor lighting are all environmental factors that can affect the way the forklift operates.
Loads: Load-carrying can pose many hazards as well, including unstable loads, loads carrying hazardous materials, carrying a heavy load with forks set too high, and stacking on racks.
Forklift operators must have comprehension in regards to performing tasks with a forklift and keeping themselves as well as other employees safe. However, sometimes conditions will get in the way of this and cause an accident. In other cases, employees may not be suitably trained to operate forklifts.
The Many Factors Involved
Yes, unfortunately liable can be a big question in these cases. For instance, behavioral elements may contribute to these accidents such as drivers who drive much too quickly, drivers who back improperly, and horseplay while using forklifts. However, workplace design can also contribute to forklift accidents. What happens if an employer places a forklift in an environment with crowded or cluttered aisles and an accident results? In a case like this, an employer may be held liable for injuries.
In other cases, forklift drivers may be improperly trained or not trained at all to operate these vehicles. They may also be put under stress to work as quickly as possible, which could result in cutting corners and getting involved in an accident. An employee may also be equipped with the wrong tools for the job, which could contribute to an accident. Lastly, the employer may not properly maintain the forklifts and a defect or issue could contribute at no fault of the employee.
OSHA Regulation says that it is the responsibility of the employer to assure that all forklifts are safe and free of repairs and defects. They must also assure that all operators are trained and authorized under OSHA Federal Regulation 1910.178. Employers are urged to involve employees in safety training courses to prevent the risks associated with these dangerous accidents. Employers must take the risks very seriously, as the numbers tell all: Since 1985, there were over 34,000 injuries requiring emergency room treatment as a result of forklift accidents. Most of the injuries stemming from these accidents were either extremely severe and debilitating, or resulted in death.
How Can I Receive Compensation for my Injuries?
If your forklift accident happened in the workplace, you will be able to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. However, before you take these steps you should file a “first report of injury” form to notify your employer of the injury as soon as possible after the accident has occurred. Workers’ compensation benefits are vital to you because they will help pay for your medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses after you have been approved of such. Another benefit to workers’ comp is the fact that it could pay about two-thirds of your lost wages. Proof of your injury is enough evidence to show that you should be awarded workers’ comp for your injuries.
Workers injured in forklift accidents may have one other option aside from workers’ comp benefits. You can actually file a lawsuit through a third party lawsuit or through negligence. Third party lawsuits could actually entitle you to additional benefits like lost wages as well as pain and suffering. However, you must be able to prove that your injury wouldn’t have occurred if it were not for the negligence of another party. Premises and product liability are two of the most common third party actions stemming from forklifts.
Premises: These will usually occur if there was an unreasonably dangerous surface at the time of the accident, causing the forklift to veer out of control. The employer has a legal duty to keep their business premises safe.
Product: Forklifts can be dangerous solely due to their design, and many accidents have happened this way in the past. You can make a claim for negligence if you can prove that the equipment was unreasonably dangerous.
If you have been involved in an accident due to a forklift in the workplace, you have rights. Luckily, we are there for you in regards to your injuries and will help you gain the compensation you deserve if negligence was involved. Do you have questions about whether you should file a lawsuit or settle for workers’ compensation? Talk to us today and we can get started on your case.