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.
In my research on state labor laws, I’ve found that the Montana labor laws cover a number of important employment issues. Some of the topics you will find under the state’s labor code include wage payment and work hour laws, child labor laws, a public works prevailing wage law, apprenticeship and other workplace training programs, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. Here are a few highlights of Montana’s labor laws:
When it comes to wage payment and work hour laws, it is worth pointing out that Montana’s minimum wage is generally the same as the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. The exception to this is businesses who have annual gross sales of less than $110,000 and who do not otherwise fall under federal regulations. Employees of these businesses must be paid at least $4.00 per hour. Under Montana labor laws, tips or gratuities may not be used to make up part of the minimum hourly wage. Employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid time and a half, unless they are specifically exempt from overtime pay under Montana labor law. Exempt employees include those with administrative, professional, executive and administrative jobs, as well as many people employed in agriculture, some sales people, and some employees covered by collective bargaining agreements.
Montana’s labor law contains several provisions related to the employment of minors. Unlike many states, Montana does not require work permits for minors. Minors are prohibited under state law from a number of hazardous occupations. This list is more restrictive for 14 and 15 year olds, and somewhat less restrictive for 16 and 17 year olds. The work hours for 14 and 15 year old minors are also regulated.
The labor laws in Montana also provide for workers’ compensation and unemployment compensation programs. Workers’ compensation is designed to help pay the medical bills and some lost wages for workers who are injured on the job. Unemployment compensation is provided to give financial assistance to workers who involuntarily lose their jobs.
For a helpful listing of all the applicable federal and state labor laws, please see the Montana Complete Labor Law Poster.