Many construction workers and employees of warehouses and warehouse stores operate forklifts each day. Powered industrial lift trucks called forklifts are widely used at construction sites, in warehouse operations, and in big-box stores, such as Home Depot and Lowes, etc. They do the heavy lifting of several people. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are nearly 35,000 forklift-related serious injuries and 85 forklift-related worker deaths each year.
If you have been injured in a forklift accident, the NYC personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, we are experienced personal injury attorneys who will fight for your rights if your injuries were the result of someone else’s negligence, defective equipment, or if your employer failed to provide adequate training. Call us at (212) 986-7353 for a free initial consultation.
It is a violation of federal law for anyone younger than 18 years old to operate a forklift. Further, it is also a violation of federal law for anyone who is over age 18 to operate a forklift without proper training, evaluation, and certification. Employers must make sure that each operator of a powered industrial truck is competent. This competence must be demonstrated by successful completion of training and evaluation.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each type of powered industrial truck has its own operating hazards. A counterbalanced, sit-down high-lift truck is more likely to be involved in a falling-load type accident because sit-down rider trucks are capable of lifting their loads much higher. Type of work place and conditions make a difference too. Forklifts operated in big-box retail stores have a greater risk of becoming involved in accidents with the public.
11 percent of all working forklifts will become involved in accidents. Consider all the noise on a construction site or in a busy, crowded warehouse environment. Now think about the fact that forklifts are moving and that they weigh a tremendous amount. Types of injury-causing incidents involving forklifts include the following:
- Forklifts may inadvertently be driven off the edge of loading docks several feet onto the pavement below.
- Forklifts may fall between loading docks and an unsecured trailer from a tractor-trailer truck.
- Workers may be struck by a forklift or they may fall while standing on raised pallets.
- Back-up collisions may occur.
- Workers may not be spotted and may be run over by forklifts.
- Workers may be crushed between a forklift and a wall or another surface.
- Customers in big-box stores may be struck by or run over by forklifts.
- Operator error may occur due to the fact that proper training may not have been required of the forklift operator. OSHA standards require adequate training, evaluation of that training, and operating experience for all forklift operators.
- The forklift may not have been regularly maintained and inspected for safety deficiencies and thus contribute to operator injury.
- Overloading may cause tip over accidents.
- If construction site forklifts do not have a falling objects protection system, operators may be injured due to falling debris.
Just as forklifts are invaluable pieces of equipment on a construction site, they also pose major risks to workers. Injuries caused by forklifts can range from minor cuts and bruises to catastrophic injuries that can follow a worker for the rest of their life. Injuries common in forklift accidents include:
- Head injuries including concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Injuries to the neck and back
- Spinal cord injuries
- Injuries to internal organs
- Fractures and broken bones
Moving past these injuries can require a lot of time, patience, and money. Victims may suffer long recovery times as a result of intensive surgery, prescribed rest, and physical therapy. In more serious cases, workers may experience a change in lifestyle and careers due to long-term disability and physical limitations.
While workplace injuries are common, it is important not to simply brush them off as accepted accidents. Injuries are often due to specific decisions and actions made on a jobsite, especially when they are related to safety. When filing a claim for a workplace injury, it is important to establish who is liable for the injury and how a victim can seek compensation.
Liability for forklift injuries can be complicated, as construction sites have a lot of moving parts and noise that can easily confuse workers about the order of events involved in an injury. However, a few key players can be highlighted to determine liability:
- The Operator: Forklift drivers are required to be trained in all safety regulations with regards to a job site, including how to properly drive and use a forklift. If a driver was operating the forklift in a negligent manner, they could be held liable for accidents.
- The Foreman or Supervisor: All jobsites, whether it is a warehouse or construction site, are required to have an established supervisor who oversees all operations and ensures workers are safe throughout their projects. If a supervisor knew a forklift was in disrepair or did not properly maintain a safe work environment, they could be held liable for any injuries caused by a forklift.
- The Manufacturer: Forklifts have complicated internal workings that must be properly designed, tested, and manufactured to avoid injury when in use. Manufactures who take short-cuts when designing brake systems or did not recall a faulty part are liable for any damages caused by their equipment.
- A Third-Party: In some incidents, a fellow employee or employee may not be at fault. Collisions can occur with other vehicles, such as when a forklift is crossing a street between job sites, and if drivers do not obey traffic signs related to construction sites, they can be liable for any damages and injuries.
In each instance it is important for the victim to ensure they were not at fault for their own injury. Reviewing safety procedures and regulations, keeping focused during work, and properly communicating with fellow workers and supervisors can minimize personal injuries, as well as any difficulties when filing a personal injury claim or for workers’ compensation.
Compensation for workplace injuries can go beyond medical costs to also include financial benefits due to lost wages, disability benefits for short-term or long-term care, and even pain and suffering. When you speak to an attorney, all forms of damages will be taken into consider before moving forward with your claim to ensure you receive the maximum compensation for your injuries.
The New York work injury lawyers at Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP are here to help when you need an experienced attorney who will fight for the compensation you deserve. You may very likely be entitled to compensation and damages. Call us at (212) 986-7353 to find out about your rights under the law.