Most of the fatal or serious injuries caused by forklift accidents are the result of the instability of the fork truck.
A Montana OSHA report shows that a single tragic case of a forklift death in Montana is just one example of the deaths and injuries that occur every year as a result of these preventable accidents. Statistics from the U.S. Labor Department show that the case is one of roughly 100 workers killed annually in the accidents. Another 20,000 are seriously hurt, on average.
The fatal Montana accident shows both the instability of the fork truck and the need for operators’ training. In this case, the driver, who worked for a car dealership, was helping a neighbor business move a load from a tractor-trailer to a pickup. The operator backed up quickly and turned sharply after offloading onto the pickup, and when that happened the forklift flipped over on its side, throwing the driver. The operator was crushed by the forklift’s overhead cage.
Montana OSHA investigated. It found several things wrong. First, the driver was not trained right in the use of the forklift. Second, the forklift had no seatbelt or other type of restraining device. Third, the forks were still raised when the driver backed up, a move that will lead to just this kind of accident. When the forks are in the “up” position and the driver turns too sharply, the forklift will tip over. It happens even at low speed and without a load on the forks, according to the “Employer’s Guide to Material Handling Safety.”
Forklift operators should keep in mind at all times that, even though fork trucks have 4 wheels, they are not as stable as cars. The difference is in the weight distribution. The weight of a car is distributed over all four tires, or points. With a forklift, on the other hand, the rear axle acts as a pivot, making for a more maneuverable machine. However, that means that there are only three points on which the weight is resting. The result is greater instability.