Michigan Forklift Injuries Are Often The Result of Improper Training

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Michigan Forklift Injuries Often the Result of Improper Training

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Forklift Operators Require Safety Training To Prevent Workplace Accidents

The Michigan County Sheriff’s Office recently received a call regarding a 47-year-old Manton man who was involved in a forklift accident and required medical assistance. Upon their arrival, the injured man was found bleeding from the head and face. He soon let officers know he was injured while operating a forklift at a nearby construction site. The man said he was removing pallets of building materials from a semi-trailer when the forklift he was operating suddenly plunged forward. The force of the plunge threw him into the metal framing of the forklift and caused significant injuries to the top half of his body, specifically his face. Officers and rescue personnel treated his injuries and then transported him to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City. It was unknown what type of training or documented operating permits the man has. The incident will continue to be investigated.

Each year, forklifts injure 95,000 workers, many requiring the assistance of a Michigan personal injury lawyer. That is about 10 percent of all reported workplace injuries being caused by this type of powered industrial truck (PIT). In Michigan, injury reports show that more than 40 workers are hospitalized each year with severe forklift-related injuries. Fatality numbers continue to be staggering across the state. The latest worker fatality report shows 46 Michigan workers have died as a result of forklift-related injuries from 2001-2015, while nearly 100 workers are killed each year across the nation from them.

These accidents can happen when a worker:

  • has been hit by a forklift
  • inadvertently drives off a loading dock
  • falls between docks and an unsecured trailer
  • is pinned between a structure and a forklift
  • is involved in a forklift tip-over due to lifting a heavy load too high or on uneven ground.

Lack of Training Causes Most Forklift Injuries and Fatalities

A forklift like the one involved in the accident mentioned is just one type of PIT used to carry, push, pull, lift, stack, or tier material at hundreds of Michigan worksites each day, critical to the livelihood of many industries. Other PITs include order pickers, reach trucks, and platform trucks. Forklifts are unique in that they are steered from the rear axle rather than from the front axle, at times making them difficult to operate by those without proper training or experience. Operating any work vehicle can quickly become hazardous if the lack of training is present, say officials from the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA). Work vehicle operators have the same rules and responsibilities to follow, similar to when driving a car on the road.

In Michigan, employees must receive training for each type of PIT they will be operating. This training must also include the use of any attachment like manlifts and drum accessories. Because conditions are different from workplace to workplace, MIOSHA requires the training to be site-specific. Trainings must include a review of the conditions under which the vehicle will be operated like surface conditions, ramps and slopes, hazardous locations, visibility, and pedestrian traffic. All training programs must be documented and employees must be tested before being issued a permit.

MIOSHA R408.12152 Rule 2152
“An employer shall test an employee before authorizing the employee to operate a powered industrial truck…”

MIOSHA R408.1 2153(1)
“An employer shall test an employee before authorizing the employee to operate a powered industrial truck…”

MIOSHA R408.12154 Rule 2154(1)
“An employer shall provide the employee a permit to operate a powered industrial truck only after meeting the requirements…”

MIOSHA also requires operator retraining when the forklift driver has been involved in a crash, a near miss, or evaluation stemming from an observed unsafe operation. Retraining also needs to occur each time a worker operates a new forklift or when a condition in the workplace changes that could affect safe operation.

Safety Regulations Remain Critical

Safety regulations can cover a variety of other topics in addition to training. When MIOSHA regulators visit a worksite they provide specific designations for PITs based on the type of power source and safeguards noted. In addition, “designated locations” are identified, such as hazardous atmospheres. These include general operation advancements and recalls, maintenance, and a review of regularly documented inspections of PIT vehicles.

Regulators also mandate pre-operation inspection for all forklifts. Forklifts should not be operated if they are defective or in need of repair. If found unsafe, forklifts should be “taken out of service right away, recorded in appropriate documents, and reported to a supervisor.”

In general, workers should follow these forklift or PIT safety guidelines in addition to the site-specific regulations provided by MIOSHA.

  • Receive documented training.
  • Know load limits.
  • Conduct daily maintenance checks.
  • Sound a warning.
  • Be aware of designated locations and hazardous atmospheres.
  • Buckle up!
  • Be aware of clearance heights.
  • Know surface conditions.
  • Watch for pedestrians.
  • Forks close to floor.
  • Forks tilted back when loaded.
  • Body within running lines of truck.
  • Only authorized personnel to charge or change battery.
  • Report safety concerns.

The Right to a Safe Workplace

Most forklift incidents could be prevented if the employer effectively evaluates the workplace for hazards. Here are some examples of injuries and fatalities reported to Michigan workplace safety officials in 2016.

  • A man in his 40s was crushed between a forklift and a shelving unit by a PIT driver.
  • A man in his 20s had his foot hanging out while backing up a forklift; his foot was caught between the forklift and a guardrail.
  • A man in his 50s was pinned between a semi-truck and a forklift.
  • A man in his 20s fell off a forklift while it continued to move; the patient was caught between the forklift and a wall.

Employees should always report all accidents and near misses involving forklifts and other PITs. Any personal injury, damage to machines, buildings, or materials should be filed in a report. Drivers who have been observed operating a work vehicle in an unsafe manner or involved in an accident or near-miss incident should be reported and reviewed.

All employees have a right to a safe workplace. If an employee feels unsafe at work, they should contact MIOSHA, who may be able to help in two ways:

1) They can inspect a workplace or;
2) Provide training or information aimed at minimizing risk and serious injury.

Workers who speak a language other than English have a right to receive such info or treatment in a language they understand.

Employers must also provide key safety information about the workplace, including copies of any standards, rules, regulations, requirements, and results of hazard testing. Perhaps most importantly, a worker should never feel unable to or unsafe in reporting or discussing violations. Retaliation by an employer or other employees for speaking up is not allowed under the law.

Michigan Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Lawsuit Attorneys

If you’ve been injured in a Michigan forklift or worksite accident, the Lee Steinberg Law Firm can help you decide legal options to best represent a MIOSHA and OSHA case for you. We can help get you started with no upfront costs. In fact, we won’t charge you at all unless your case is settled or won.

We’re on your side so call us today to discuss the possibility of a personal injury claim, 1-800-LEE-FREE.