Addressing the most common forklift-related injuries

Date Posted: 03/22/2021

Forklift Pedestrian SignThe most common forklift-related injuries involve pedestrian impacts, falling loads or items, and workers falling from the truck or tines. While training should be part of your prevention efforts, adopting other controls can help reduce these hazards. Use the following tips to help prevent injuries.

Pedestrian impacts

A collision between a forklift and a pedestrian may occur for a number of reasons, including:

  • The pedestrian assumed the operator saw him or her;
  • The operator failed to stop and sound the horn at an intersection; or
  • The operator’s vision was obstructed but the operator did not follow precautions.

Other scenarios similarly involve a failure by the operator, the pedestrian, or both. Training should help, but other controls can also help. These include installing mirrors and posting reminders at intersections, eliminating blind spots where possible by increasing visibility, marking pedestrian aisles and creating additional clearance at corners, and/or installing audible and visual devices on equipment such as beepers or rotating lights.

Training should focus on paying attention, traveling at safe speeds (both trucks and pedestrians, who should not run), using mirrors, and understanding vision limitations (including going from sunlight to a darker interior). Operators must yield to pedestrians, but must first see the pedestrian, and pedestrians should never assume they’ve been spotted.

Falling items

Falling loads or items can injure the operator or others in the area. This category could include:

  • Unstable loads collapsing during transport, especially when turning corners or stopping;
  • Placing an item on a shelf or rack that pushes another item off the other side;
  • Removing an item that catches the next pallet, dragging it off the shelf or rack; or
  • Moving the forklift (especially turning) while raising or lowering a load.

Training is the best way to prevent these injuries. The operator must never raise or lower a load while moving, carry only stable and secure loads, and use caution while removing or placing loads on racks. Pedestrians must know to stand well clear of any elevated load. If something falls, the forklift cage should protect the operator, but the cage won’t save a pedestrian.

Workers falling

Operators could slip or fall while mounting or dismounting a forklift, but more serious injuries occur when the operator carries passengers. Even if the forklift has a cage attachment for elevating workers, it must never be used to transport passengers. Workers may enter the cage only when the forklift is stopped.

Again, training is key to preventing injuries. All workers should know that riding on a forklift, on the tines, or in a cage is prohibited.


How Safety Management Suite Can Help


According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, each year there are nearly 54,000 forklift-related injuries involving days away from work, plus hundreds of serious injury reports to Federal OSHA involving a powered industrial truck. To help prevent your employees from becoming part of these statistics, watch our archived webcast “Forklift Safety and Compliance: Answering the tough questions” from March 25, 2021.


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