Statistically, one in every ten forklifts will be involved in an accident. Not during its lifetime but every year! And these numbers represent accidents that involve either death or serious injury. 

Even if you happen to be in the unenviable position of having close knowledge of forklift accidents, this statistic will seem high. Most likely shockingly so. 

So without investigating solutions or prevention methods, it might be expedient to take a closer look at the different types and causes of forklift accidents. A necessary acknowledgement, if you will, of a relevant workplace problem. And one with far-reaching consequences at that.

Inadequate or insufficiently trained operators

About one in every four forklift accidents is due to inadequate driver training. Even the most comprehensive certification process and driver’s training program is only as effective as the commitment to adhere to it. And to continuously upgrade, update and compensate for changing environments, machinery, work processes, etc. 

Tipovers and rollovers

Whether caused by turning too quickly, driving or turning on an incline or uneven surface, overweight or imbalanced loads, driving with an elevated load or abrupt mast movement, … forklift overturns account for about 22% of all victims of forklift accidents. And 42% of its fatalities.

Collisions with workers on foot or other vehicles

As much as one in five forklift accidents involve a worker on foot. More than one in three of forklift-related deaths are pedestrians. Within the general number of fatal forklift accidents these fatalities from collision with pedestrians rank as follows: crushed between vehicle and a surface (25%), crushed between two vehicles (11%), struck or run over (10%).

 

“1 in 5 forklift accidents and 1 in 3 forklift-related deaths involve a worker on foot.”

 

Speeding

If there is one thing every manual or training program cannot stress enough it’s that “forklifts are not designed for speed”. Too often routine, overconfidence or workload-pressure will make drivers exceed the recommended operation speed.

Faulty equipment

Due to lack of parts or inappropriately used accessories, inexpertly fixed and badly maintained machinery is more prone to unexpected behavior. And thus to potentially lethal accidents. Keep in mind that not all reasons for a malfunction with damaging effects are visible without exhaustive checks.

Unsecured loads

Particularly loose or badly stacked loads, have a higher risk of falling from the mast. Most often, but not necessarily only, when turning, braking, driving over uneven surfaces or bad mast-operation. Depending on the height and weight of the load, this can – and sometimes does – cause severe injury or death.

Insufficiently planned and marked no-go zones

These zones could be prohibited for either the forklift or the worker on foot. In an ideal environment both should never overlap. When these zones are insufficiently marked or not defined in any other way, this increases the risk and muddles the accountability for accidents.

Poorly thought out workplace design

Is there ample room for maneuvering? Are the aisles wide enough to navigate and turn in? Has the available space been adapted to a new forklift model or a rise in traffic volume? How about clutter discipline, too much noise and/or insufficient lighting?

Cowboy behavior

Driving the forklift with an elevated load. Giving rides using the mast. And essentially intentionally committing half of the above mentioned causes for serious forklift accidents as speeding, improper turning, or driving a forklift one did not have the proper training or certification for. In other words: whatever your actions to increase forklift safety, it means nothing if you don’t control your drivers’ behavior.