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Are You Forklift Safe?

“90% of all forklifts will be involved in an accident”

Forklift accidents are incredibly common - how common? 90% of all forklifts will be involved in an accident during their lifetime of about 8 years.


It’s difficult to believe that 9 out of 10 forklifts will be in some kind of an accident. Thankfully, not all of these accidents cause serious injury or extensive property damage. However, most of these accidents are preventable with thorough education, training, and records keeping.

“Overloading the weight limits is the number 1 cause of forklift accidents”

What’s the number one reason for the accidents? Overloading the weight limits. When you think about it, that’s hardly surprising. As safe as a machine can be, when it is overloaded there is really no way to ensure safety no matter what measures the manufacturer takes..

The second most significant cause of forklift accidents is collision with people. Many factors can contribute to such an occurrence: space that doesn’t have visibility and is not large enough for proper maneuvering of the machine, extremely noisy environments, distractions, you name it. At the end of the day the responsibility is on management to design and implement the correct safety measures throughout the facility, and on employees to adhere to these measures at all times.

Even when a forklift is used to move items within the weight limit, if the cargo isn’t properly fastened it poses significant danger. If you’re a forklift operator you can probably think of a few instances where cargo had to be adjusted to make sure it was safely fastened. However long it takes; doing it safely is the only option. Apparently not everyone is as safe as you are - and this factor is one of the most common reasons for accidents.

“While it does have the word “lift” in it, a forklift should never be used to elevate a person”

While the word “lift” is part of the name of the equipment - forklifts are definitely not designed for people.One would think that this is a basic and obvious rule - yet, it is in the top 5 reasons for forklift accidents.

Awareness of your surroundings is an important skill. Particularly during the operation of heavy equipment. Yet, driving a forklift off of a loading dock is a major source of accidents. A space not properly designed for visibility and maneuverability with a forklift is a huge factor in more than one of the top reasons for accidents.

If an operator can’t see exactly where the loading dock ends; and if there aren’t proper safety guidelines in place to mitigate any such limitations then it is only a matter of time until someone drives it off the dock.

“Forklift maintenance should be a no-brainer”

Poor maintenance is another major source of forklift accidents. Unlike some of the other causes that often rely on situational judgment and are dependent on many factors; maintenance should be a no-brainer. Yet, it is not always fully performed. One way to ensure that you never skip a maintenance check is to use a logbook to track everything.

The following are 5 forklift accidents that are based on one or a combination of the top causes mentioned above.

Accident number 1:

Two forklift operators attempted to move a heavy metal structure out of a warehouse. While trying to lift the object from the supporting metal shelves it twisted and lost balance. The metal structure swung towards the lift truck and actually entered the cabin. As a result the operator was struck by the object and suffered serious injuries.

Following an investigation it turned out that the company never trained its operators or provided any guidance as per forklift operation at all. No risk assessment took place, nor was the site supervised. The worker survived - one can only hope that this company is going to comply with safety measures from now. If you aren’t trained in the operation of the specific truck you’re driving then how can you assess the safety of what you are about to do?

Accident number 2

An outsider may not know it but there are many different kinds of forklift each designed for a specific job - one license doesn’t mean that an operator can use all types of forklifts. Nor does it mean that an operator can use the forklift he is licensed with to perform a job not suitable for it.

Such a situation resulted in a long lasting injury that requires therapy visits by a worker at a factory dealing with lumber. The worker in question was dipping timber in preservative liquid and apparently not using the correct equipment to do so. As a result the timber posts became dislodged and fell from the truck striking the operator.

An investigation determined that the company responsible didn’t provide the right equipment for the job; moreover, the operator wasn’t trained to do the job in the first place. It was determined that the company was responsible for not using the right equipment, not properly training the operator, and not properly inspecting the forklift itself.

Accident number 3

Forklift operators aren’t the only ones who require knowledge and safety training in forklift operation. Anyone who deals with lift trucks must be fully aware of all safety requirements and procedures.

Injuries and accidents inevitably follow when heavy equipment is used by untrained or improperly trained personnel. Such an accident occurred when a forklift mechanic (someone who should know forklifts!) was fatally injured as he attempted to troubleshoot the machine.

Such an accident won’t happen in any of the newer models of lift trucks as they have a safety feature which prevents them from starting. However, the mechanic in question didn’t have such luck and while attempting to diagnose an issue had accidentally placed the truck into gear.

This may not have lead to serious consequences if the mechanic had practiced otherwise safe procedures. However, this particular mechanic had parked his van so close that when the lift truck moved it pinned him between the truck and the mirror of the van.

Despite attempts from coworkers and ambulance he unfortunately didn’t make it. A little extra time and effort is well worth it when dealing with heavy equipment. If you’re in a situation where you are interacting with heavy equipment - even if not as an operator - take the time to make sure it is safe.

Accident number 4

A young employee was pinned to the ground by a forklift truck when he was attempting to unload a vehicle at work. It turns out that the 19 year old employee (still a teenager at the time) wasn’t trained at all in the operation of a forklift.

Worse, many of the other employees had no training either and the site was unsupervised. Out of all the forklift accidents that we’ve chosen to present this one had the most impact from careless operation.

Unfortunately for the worker, the proceedings against the company were too late as he had already sustained serious and life long injuries. Forklifts are involved in almost 25% of all accident in the workplace - and in many cases these accidents are preventable with proper safety measures and standards.

Accident number 5

An overturned lift truck has killed an operator in a large steel fabrication company. An investigation into the incident revealed that the operator wasn’t wearing a seat-belt at the time - yes, forklifts have seat-belts laws too!

The truck was backing up and hit a step which caused to to overturn. How did the truck overturn in the first place? A small step on the road shouldn’t immediately cause a forklift to flip over. However, it turns out that the company in question wasn’t enforcing neither the seat-belt nor safe driving speed laws.

The resulting judgment was that the company failed to establish safe management practices in the warehouse. Once again, the accident - perhaps inevitable - could have been much less severe if the driving speed was safe and a seat-belt was worn.

If you are looking to make your workplace safer, then focusing on education, training, and records keeping are a top priority. Lacking in these factors is the cause of nearly all forklift accidents and plays a huge role in the $100 million losses annually.

Search out your local forklift training provider and stay up to date on all of your certifications. Even though someone is trained, it doesn't mean that they are good for life. Refresher courses are an essential part of good safety standards. (perhaps plug in a few local providers or maybe some USA providers and they may help promote)

Recording everything is absolutely essential and for that purpose keeping a logbook is the key.

May 22, 2017 Written by Eugene Matoussov 168 comments

Don't Buy Another Log Book Until You Read This!

When you focus on your job it is easy to lose focus on the importance of keeping records. Records and logs are not kept because it is a fun thing to do. Well, alright, some people might find it enjoyable - but not too many! When you’re absorbed in repairing or inspecting a piece of machinery, property, or a construction site; the thought of “hey, I really want to write this all down” is not usually at the top of your mind.

November 04, 2015 Written by Eugene Matoussov 266 comments