Thursday, September 25, 2014

Case Reports

The cases presented here were investigated by the NIOSH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program. The case reports were selected to represent the most common types of fatal forklift incidents: (1) forklift overturns, (2) workers struck, crushed, or pinned by a forklift, and (3) falls from a forklift.

Case 1-Forklift Overturn

On September 18, 1996, the 43-year-old president of an advertising sign company was killed while using a sit-down type forklift to unload steel tubing from a flatbed trailer. He was driving the forklift about 5 miles per hour beside the trailer on a concrete driveway with a 3% grade. The victim turned the forklift behind the trailer, and the forklift began to tip over on its side. The victim jumped from the operator's seat to the driveway. When the forklift overturned, the victim's head and neck became pinned to the concrete driveway under the falling-object protective structure (overhead guard). An inspection of the forklift revealed that the right-side rear axle stop was damaged before the incident and was not restricting the lateral sway of the forklift when it turned. Also, slack in the steering mechanism required the operator to turn the steering wheel slightly more than half a revolution before the wheels started to turn. The forklift was not equipped with a seat belt [NIOSH 1996b].

Case 2-Forklift Overturn

On April 25, 1995, a 37-year-old shop foreman was fatally injured after the sit-down type forklift he was operating overturned. The victim was turning while backing down an incline with a 4% grade. The forklift was transporting a 3-foot-high, 150-pound stack of cardboard with the forks raised approximately 60 inches off the ground. No one witnessed the incident. The victim was found with his head pinned under the overhead guard. The forklift was not equipped with a seat belt [California Department of Health Services 1996].

Case 3-Forklift Overturn

On November 25, 1996, a 41-year-old male laborer was fatally injured when the sit-down type forklift he was operating fell off a loading dock and pinned him under the overhead guard. The forklift was not equipped with a seat belt. The loading dock had large cracks in the surface and was in need of extensive repair. It was raining when the victim left the storage building to lift a load from the back of a pickup truck. Evidence indicates that either the victim's forklift was too close to the outer edge of the loading dock (which crumbled) or the right front tire was caught in a large crack in the loading dock, causing the forklift to overturn [Indiana State Department of Health 1996].

Case 4-Worker Struck by Forklift

On October 19, 1995, a 39-year-old female punch press operator at a computer components manufacturer was fatally injured while performing normal work tasks at her station. A forklift was traveling in reverse at high speed toward the victim's work station. A witness observed the forklift strike a metal scrap bin (about 3 by 5 by 3½ feet), propelling it toward the punch press station. The bin hit the press and rebounded toward the forklift. There it was hit once again and shoved back against the corner of the press, striking and crushing the victim against the press [NIOSH 1996c].

Case 5-Fall from Forklift

On July 21, 1997, a 36-year-old male electric-line technician was fatally injured after falling from and being run over by a forklift. While the operator was driving the forklift, the victim was riding on the forks. As the operator approached an intersection, he slowed down and turned his head to check for oncoming traffic. When he turned his head back, he could not see the victim. He stopped the forklift, dismounted, and found the victim underneath the right side of the forklift [NIOSH 1997a].

Case 6-Fall from Forklift

On September 24, 1997, a 61-year-old male maintenance manager of a shelter for the homeless died after falling 7 feet from a safety platform that had been elevated by a forklift. The victim had been raised in a steel-framed, cage-type safety platform that had not been secured to the forklift. The victim removed a fluorescent light bulb from its fixture and stepped to one side of the safety platform. When the victim shifted his weight from the center of the platform to the outer edge, the safety platform toppled off the forks. The victim fell about 7 feet, struck his head on a concrete floor, and was subsequently struck by the steel safety platform [NIOSH 1997b].

Case 7-Fall from Forklift

On September 6, 1995, a 47-year-old male assistant warehouse manager was fatally injured while working with a forklift operator to pull tires from a storage rack. The two workers had placed a wooden pallet on the forks of the forklift, and the victim then stood on the pallet. The operator raised the forks and victim 16 feet above a concrete floor to the top of the storage rack. The victim had placed a few tires on the pallet when the operator noticed that the pallet was becoming unstable. The victim lost his balance and fell, striking his head on the floor [NIOSH 1996a].

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Preventing Injuries and Deaths of Workers Who Operate or Work Near Forklifts Part 2


Forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks, are used in numerous work settings, primarily to move materials. Each year in the United States, nearly 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 are seriously injured in forklift-related incidents [BLS 1997, 1998].
Forklift overturns are the leading cause of fatalities involving forklifts; they represent about 25% of all forklift-related deaths

Fatality Data

The following paragraphs summarize information about fatalities involving forklifts. The information is from databases that identify work-related fatalities in the United States.

National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System

In the United States, 1,021 workers died from traumatic injuries suffered in forklift-related incidents from 1980 to 1994. The NTOF Surveillance System uses death certificates to identify work-related deaths. These fatalities resulted from the following types of incidents:
Type of Incident% total victims
Forklift overturns22
Worker on foot struck by forklift20
Victim crushed by forklift16
Fall from forklift9

Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics CFOI identified 94 fatal injuries associated with forklifts in 1995 [BLS 1997].

Current Standards

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA has developed standards for powered industrial trucks (such as low- and high-lift trucks and forklift trucks) [29 CFR* 1910.178] and for forklifts used in the construction industry [29 CFR 1926.600; 1926.602].

*Code of Federal Regulations. See CFR in references.


OSHA has promulgated the Final Rule for Powered Industrial Truck Operator Training [29 CFR 1910.178(l)], which became effective March 1, 1999. The standard requires operator training and licensing as well as periodic evaluations of operator performance. The standard also addresses specific training requirements for truck operation, loading, seat belts, overhead protective structures, alarms, and maintenance of industrial trucks. Refresher training is required if the operator is observed operating the truck in an unsafe manner, is involved in an accident or near miss, or is assigned a different type of truck.

Forklift Maintenance

OSHA requires that industrial trucks be examined before being placed in service. They shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. When industrial trucks are used around the clock, they shall be examined after each shift. When defects are found, they shall be immediately reported and corrected [29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7)].

Forklift Operation

OSHA requirements for forklift operation are as follows:
  • On all grades, the load and load engaging means shall be tilted back, if applicable, and raised only as far as needed to clear the road surface. The forks shall not be raised or lowered while the forklift is moving [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(7)(iii)].
  • Under all travel conditions, the truck shall be operated at a speed that will permit it to be brought safely to a stop [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(8)].
  • The operator shall slow down and sound the horn at cross aisles and other locations where vision is obstructed [29 CFR 1910.178 (n)(4)].
  • The operator is required to look toward and keep a clear view of the travel path [29 CFR 1910.178(n)(6)].
  • Unauthorized personnel shall not be permitted to ride on powered industrial trucks. A safe place to ride shall be provided where the riding of trucks is authorized [29 CFR 1910.178 (m)(3)].
  • Forklift trucks shall not be driven up to anyone standing in front of a bench or other fixed object [29 1910.178 (m)(1)].

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Youth Employment

The FLSA [29 USC 201 et seq.] (the primary law governing the employment of youth under age 18) includes work declared hazardous for youth by the Secretary of Labor. Hazardous Order No. 7, Power-Driven Hoisting Apparatus Occupations, prohibits workers under age 18 from using forklifts and similar equipment in nonagricultural industries [29 CFR 570.58]. In agricultural industries, minors under age 16 are prohibited from using forklifts [29 CFR 570.71 (a)(3)(ii)].

United States Code.
Not all working minors are covered by the FLSA. The regulations in agriculture do not apply to minors working on their parents' farms. Also exempted are youths aged 14 and 15 who are working under carefully regulated conditions in a bona fide vocational agriculture program.

American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)/American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

ASME/ANSI B56.1-1993 requires the following [ASME 1993].

Maintenance and Safety Equipment

  • Brakes, steering mechanisms, control mechanisms, warning devices, lights, governors, lift overload devices, guard and safety devices, lift and tilt mechanisms, articulating axle stops, and frame members shall be carefully and regularly inspected and maintained in a safe condition (ASME/ANSI B56.1-1993m 6.2.7) [ASME 1993].
  • When work is being performed from an elevated platform, a restraining means such as rails, chains, etc., shall be in place, or a body belt with lanyard or deceleration device shall be worn by the person(s) on the platform (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §4.17.1[b]) [ASME 1993].


  • An operator should avoid turning, if possible, and should use extreme caution on grades, ramps, or inclines. Normally the operator should travel straight up and down (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §5.3.8[d]) [ASME 1993].
  • The operator of a sit-down type forklift should stay with the truck if lateral or longitudinal tip over occurs. The operator should hold on firmly and lean away from the point of impact (ASME/ANSI B56.1, §5.3.18[d]) [ASME 1993].
In addition to the above regulations, employers and workers should follow operator's manuals, which are supplied by all equipment manufacturers and describe the safe operation and maintenance of forklifts.