Construction workers rely on many different kinds of heavy machinery to help them during excavation and building. Unfortunately, the tools that save your back could also take your life—especially if you work near powered industrial trucks, commonly called forklifts. Nearly 100 workers are killed every year as a result of forklift accidents, with employees in the construction industry as one of the highest risks of both fatal and non-fatal forklift injuries.
Construction Workers at High Risk of Forklift Accidents
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that over 95,000 employees are injured every year in accidents involving forklifts. Not only are these accidents more likely to occur on construction sites, they are one of the costliest types of workers’ compensation claims, and often involve long-term disability.
Employees who operate or work near lift trucks are most commonly injured by:
- Forklift turnovers. Overturned forklifts are more likely to involve fatal injuries than other lift truck accidents, especially if they are accidentally driven off a loading dock or fall between docks, building levels, or trailers.
- Falls. Falls from heights are a common cause of construction accidents, with injuries often including head and neck trauma that can result in death or permanent paralysis. Even if a traumatic brain injury is not fatal, it can still require extensive medical treatments and rehabilitation, and they often prevent employees from returning to work.
- Worker struck by forklift. Powered industrial trucks are either driven or controlled remotely by an operator. Both remote operators and those onboard the forklift may have problems maneuvering the lift, and can accidentally steer the powerful truck into another worker—causing broken bones, hand and foot injuries, and other trauma.
- Worker injured by falling materials. Construction workers may use forklifts for a variety of reasons, from lifting loaded pallets to the removal of broken concrete and debris. An unbalanced load may fall from the forks, causing neck and back injuries to nearby workers.
- Crush injuries. Construction forklifts are intended to move over rough terrain, and can easily continue moving forward when objects are in their way. A worker trapped between a loaded forklift and a wall can suffer back and spinal cord injuries, while a worker who is run over by a forklift may never recover from the accident.
When Injured Workers Can File a Negligence Claim for a Forklift Injury
Forklift injuries can easily cost an employee tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages. Although employees who receive workers’ compensation are prohibited from suing their employers, workers may be able to file a third-party lawsuit to recover the costs of their injury and the pain and suffering they have endured as a result of the workplace accident.
Employees may be able to file a lawsuit if their accident was caused by:
- Safety violations. Trucks must be operated according to safety standards and only carry loads no heavier than the forklift’s capacity. In addition, it is illegal for any worker under 18 years old to operate a forklift.
- Untrained employees. In order to operate a forklift, employees must undergo both written and driving tests, and are required to undergo regular training in order to be authorized.
- Improper maintenance. Maintenance companies who did not perform regular examinations of equipment or failed to maintain engines, tires, belts, or forks may be held liable for negligence. In addition, companies can be liable if defects in machinery were identified but the equipment was not removed from service.
- Equipment modifications. Forklifts are equipped with safety devices to prevent injury, including roll cages, reverse signal alarms, and seat belts. If safety equipment was removed from the forklift in your accident and could have protected you from injury, you may be able to file an injury claim.
- Defective equipment. It is not uncommon for heavy machinery to have design or manufacturing defects that result in accidents. If a vehicle or any of its components were poorly made or failed to perform, you may have a claim against the manufacturer.
- A reckless employee. Operation of a forklift should be taken seriously. If a fellow employee was engaging in horseplay, ignoring safety standards, or operating a lift while intoxicated, you may be able to hold him accountable for your injuries.
If you were injured in a New York or New Jersey forklift accident you need to speak with an experienced construction injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free initial consultation.