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Forklifts & Powered Equipment

What Are the Main Causes of Injuries When Using Forklifts?

Posted September 14, 2022

Forklifts are an important part of many operations. You’ll find these powered industrial trucks on loading docks and in warehouses, manufacturing plants, and even certain retail stockrooms. Despite their importance in all kinds of businesses, there is some risk associated with using a forklift. 

Data from the National Safety Council (NSC) indicates that forklifts caused 7,290 on-the-job injuries and 78 work-related fatalities in 2020. What are the main causes of injuries when using forklifts? Causes range from insufficient training to inefficient warehouse design.

Naumann/Hobbs is prepared to be your partner in forklift injury prevention. Let’s look at how injury can impact business, injuries commonly suffered, and how operators can stay safe when using a forklift.

The Impact of On-the-Job Forklift Injuries

Not only can forklift injuries be tragic, but they can also be very expensive for businesses. Some of the costs and impacts of on-the-job forklift injuries can include:

  • Damaged equipment repairs and replacements: Repairing a lift truck damaged in an accident can come with a hefty price tag. In cases of a total loss, long lead times and extra expenses can halt productivity and severely slash profits.
  • Loss of profits and productivity: Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates the estimated cost of injuries across the country topped $4.2 billion in 2019. Many of these injuries occured in workplaces, which lead to medical payouts and downtime.
  • Worker’s Compensation payouts: Employers are often required to cover medical expenses for workers injured on the job. Some estimates suggest the average costs of forklift accidents can top $188,000 in direct and indirect costs.

With so many forklift injuries a year and so many associated expenses, injury prevention is key to workplace success. 

What Are Common Forklift Injuries?

There are many ways forklift operators can get hurt on the job. The nature and specificity of forklift injuries varies by type of incident. The NSC reports that fractures accounted for 29% of forklift injuries suffered in 2020. Other  reported injuries suffered by forklift operators include:

  • Bruises and contusions
  • Soreness and pain
  • Sprains and strains
  • Cuts and lacerations
  • Multiple traumatic injuries
  • Amputations

These injuries can come from many different causes. Let’s look at a few of the problems that can lead to forklift operators getting hurt on the job.

What Are the 4 Main Causes of Injuries When Using a Forklift?

According to information from the NSC, 52% of forklift injuries are from transportation incidents. This might include overturned forklifts and other occurrences. Other causes of injuries vary:

  • 23% of injuries are caused by striking objects
  • 15% are caused by falls and slips
  • 5% are caused by objects caught in the equipment
  • 3% are caused by operator overexertion

Many of these causes of forklift injury boil down to 4 specific sources. 

Forklift Injury Cause 1: Insufficient Training

Forklift training is essential — even mandatory. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that “only trained and competent operators shall be permitted to operate a powered industrial truck,” including forklifts. 

OSHA-mandated forklift training hinges on safety. Proper and thorough training, like that offered through Naumann/Hobbs, should cover types of forklifts, basic operating rules and safety practices, and an understanding of safe workplace practices. 

Ensuring that all employees go through forklift training will not only ensure compliance with OSHA guidelines but also reduce the risk of injuries in your facility. Forklift training teaches operators need-to-know information. The course should cover topics such as how to prevent rollovers, how to balance loads, and other safety-driven essentials.

Forklift Injury Cause 2: Faulty Equipment

In addition to mandated forklift training, OSHA requires that all trucks are inspected before use. A thorough and comprehensive safety inspection can ensure that equipment is in proper working order and any problems are corrected before use. 

A pre-operation forklift inspection can catch all kinds of issues before they become injury-causing safety risks. Let’s say an operator notices bent forks during an inspection. Correcting this problem before use can prevent falling loads caused by faulty equipment. Falling loads can be serious hazards that can lead to the injury or even death of both operators and pedestrians.

Forklift Injury Cause 3: Floor Design

You know that an efficient warehouse design can increase material handling productivity. But one sometimes-overlooked component of floor design is injury prevention. For example, sharp turns on an incline and uneven floor surfaces can both lead to injury-causing forklift rollover accidents. Avoiding these pitfalls in your facility floor design can help prevent accidents.

Naumann/Hobbs has experts available to help you design a safety-focused material handling operation. Learn more about warehouse design and layout solutions.

Forklift Injury Cause 4: Speeding

Most warehouse and material handling facilities have posted speed limits for forklifts, just like the roads and highways. And just like cars on roads and highways, going too fast in a forklift can lead to accidents and injuries. 

An operator who is going too fast on a forklift has less time to react to hazards and even warehouse pedestrians. Speeding and reduced reaction times can lead to striking objects with the forklift, an accident which causes 23% of all forklift injuries as noted above.

Warehouse and facility managers must enforce forklift speed limits at all times.

How Can You Decrease the Likelihood of Injuries While Using a Forklift?

The Industrial Truck Association suggests that 70% of all forklift injuries can be prevented. The best way to prevent injuries is through proper and thorough forklift training. Naumann/Hobbs offers many training opportunities for operators and can help your workers stay safe on the job.

In addition to forklift training, there are other common-sense ways to prevent injury on the job. You can decrease the likelihood of forklift injuries by ensuring operators:

  • Wear a seatbelt at all times
  • Always distribute loads properly
  • Conduct required pre-shift forklift inspections
  • Keep a safe distance from material handling equipment and pedestrians
  • Follow all posted speed limits
  • Avoid taking sharp turns and traveling on uneven surfaces
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, gloves, and reflective clothing when needed
  • Perform regular forklift service and maintenance

Prevent Injuries with Safety Training from Naumann/Hobbs

What are the main causes of injuries when using forklifts? Most of the main causes of forklift injuries boil down to issues covered through forklift training and warehouse safety programs. 

Naumann/Hobbs is prepared to be your strategic partner for ensuring workplace safety through OSHA-required training. Our skilled instructors are honed in on injury prevention and ready to share their knowledge with forklift operators of all skill levels.

Ready to learn more about safety and forklift training programs from Naumann/Hobbs? Reach out online now.

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