We’ve heard so much about window washers falling from buildings and construction workers injuring themselves with collapsing cranes. Yesterday, another fatality happened; but this time it involved a forklift.

A Rudco Products employee got pinned against a trash compactor when his co-worker lost control of a forklift. Julio A. Rivera, 37, was immediately brought to the South Jersey Healthcare Regional Medical Center after the accident. He was pronounced dead soon after.

The incident above is just one among more than 100 forklift-related fatalities every year, as estimated by OSHA. That’s not all. The administration also said that nearly 95,000 serious injuries happen every year because of unsafe forklift operations.

Being crushed between a forklift and another surface is actually 2nd among the primary causes of forklift-related injuries and deaths. The first one is vehicle-tip over’s while the third to sixth are the following, respectively:

  • Getting struck by the vehicle
  • Getting hit by falling material from a dropped load
  • Falling from a platform to the forks
  • Running the forklift off a loading dock, ramp, or other surface

Training and Inspection

Safe forklift operation all starts with a well-trained driver. After undergoing complete training, drivers must be re-evaluated every 3 years. They should be re-trained if they meet an accident, have near misses, or get re-assigned to different equipment or workplace.

Before operating a forklift, a driver must make sure that it’s in good condition. Even if the vehicle is new, you must not skip this procedure. After all, even forklifts can get damaged after only days of operation.

Photo by LaRae

You must perform the following steps to ensure that there’s nothing wrong with the forklift:

  • Check above your head for any obstructions.
  • Inspect vent caps for clogs and forks for cracks or bends.
  • Examine if battery and fire extinguisher are fully charged and secured.
  • Test the horn to ensure that it’s loud enough to be heard throughout the workplace.
  • Check if the vehicle makes strange sounds.
  • Check if floor brakes and pedals work smoothly.
  • Make sure gearshift and clutch shifts without jerking.
  • Check if lights and gauges of the dash control panel work properly.

Guidelines in Forklift Operations

When loading a forklift, make sure you don’t go beyond its recommended load capacity. Always position the load based on the suggested load center. When inserting the fork into the pallet, the forklift must always be in a standing position.

When traveling in a forklift or operating it, DO…

  • use your seatbelt
  • keep your head, arms, hands, legs, and feet inside the vehicle
  • keep to the right in 2-way traffic
  • slow down if there are people and other vehicles before you of if the surface is wet or slippery
  • slow down when turning
  • slow down and sound the horn at corners, blind curves or other places where visibility is obstructed.
  • keep the load as low as possible
  • ensure that the forks are tilted back
  • use caution when driving or operating around ladders and scaffolding
  • use more caution in a construction site since no lines or marked paths are available unlike in a warehouse
  • keep a safe distance from edges of ramps, docks and platforms

Photo by Kevin Connors


  • Allow anyone to stand or pass under raised forks, whether they’re loaded or empty
  • Allow anyone to use the forks as a man lift
  • Tilt the load forward while the load is raised or the vehicle is moving down hill
  • Allow stunt driving or horse play on or around the forklift
  • Run over loose objects like scrap material or debris
  • Drive sideways/across slopes
  • Go near open trenches
  • Drive over makeshift bridges

Remember, as with any equipment in your workplace, proper operations of a forklift require right training and procedures. It’s important that the employer and employees work hand in hand in making sure that safety is not compromised on the job. Be safe out there, everyone!

Helpful Links:

Forklift eTool : New OSHA Release
Forklift Safety
Darwin Awards Winner of 2000 – Death While Filming a Safety Video

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