The dangers associated with use of forklifts are often underestimated because the vehicles are quiet, in frequent use and become a regular part of the workplace. However, employers and employees must always remember that accidents involving forklifts can be serious and often fatal.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that each year in the United States nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents.
Recently, a worker died at a greenhouse in Center Moriches, Long Island after falling off a forklift and hitting his head.
CBS News (3.24.15) reported that Santos Ortiz, 37, was working a forklift at Kurt Weiss Greenhouses when he lost control of the vehicle. He struck his head on a metal post, and fell to the ground. He was then taken to a hospital where he died.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was notified about the death, reported CBS News. The accident will most certainly be investigated. Falls from forklifts account for 9 percent of the fatal injuries associated with forklifts. Forklift overturns account for 22 percent of the fatal injuries in forklift-related accidents. An investigation can help to uncover the cause of accident and to prevent a similar accident in the future
Why Ortiz fell from the forklift is unreported. However, forklift operators should wear seatbelts. According to OSHA, its enforcement policy on the use of seat belts on forklifts and other powered industrial trucks is that “employers are obligated to require operators of powered industrial trucks which are equipped with operator restraint devices or seat belts to use the devices.” OSHA would enforce the use of such devices under Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act. While seat belts can’t prevent accidents, they can prevent serious injuries and save lives.
In addition to assuring that safety devices are properly working, investigators will also look at training. Proper workplace training is often key to preventing accidents.
Employees who work with forklifts or powered industrial vehicles and have concerns about workplace safety should contact OSHA. Workers who have been injured in an accident should seek the advice of an experienced lawyer who can be an advocate through the workers’ compensation process. A workers’ compensation lawyer can also help the family of a worker in the event of a fatal workplace accident.