Forklift Operations Expert Opines on Fatal Accident During Material Delivery

    Forklift Safety ExpertThis case involves an injury that occurred while a forklift operator was unloading materials for a large manufacturer of prefabricated homes in Hawaii. A truckload of plywood had been delivered on a flatbed trailer, and the driver began to unstrap the load via the trailer’s ratchet system. While he was disengaging the ratchet locks on his side of the trailer, an employee of the manufacturing firm approached the other side of the trailer with a forklift. Unaware of the fact the the driver was working on the other side of the trailer, the forklift operator attempted to remove material from the flatbed. However, the forklift driver accidentally stuck a pallet of plywood with one of his machine’s forks, causing it to fall off of the trailer and crush the driver working on the other side.

    Question(s) For Expert Witness

    • 1. For how long have you been operating forklifts?
    • 2. What experience do you have training forklift operators?
    • 3. How does a forklift operator know when to begin unloading materials from a flatbed?

    Expert Witness Response E-042750

    I have been operating forklifts in warehouses for about 30 years, mostly as a supervisor or forklift training consultant and coach. My forklift training and consulting experience is extensive: with the results of my ten-year field study on “training interventions and their effect on serious injuries among 300 forklift operators”, I testified in Washington DC at the Hearing for the latest OSHA rule on Powered Industrial Truck Training. I am also the author of many forklift-related articles and presentations, and I have published a chapter on my signature forklift performance management system in an academic textbook. In addition, I currently operate a membership website that distributes forklift documents to trainers, managers, and lawyers. Because unloading a flatbed trailer safely requires more than just the forklift operator’s attention the safe procedures required will vary with the specific workplace environment. There are a few things singularly within the forklift operator’s purview, that should be done before attempting to unload, including the following:

    1. An examination of the forklift’s functional integrity, and lift capacity, such as that required by OSHA and ANSI rules.
    2. Chocking, blocking, or use of other means to prevent the trailer wheels from moving while it is being unloaded.
    3. Deciding the degree of “match” between the length and tapered thickness of the forks with the configuration of the load as it sits on the trailer.
    4. Examining the load-to-trailer method of stabilization. I have reviewed three similar cases, all of which involved a forklift operator who communicated with the delivery tractor operator prior to injuring them.

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