“When we think of unsafe operations, a fork lift truck tipping over is about as bad as it gets,” said Fork Lift Truck Association CEO David Ellison. “But it can and does get worse if the operator is not restrained. Indeed it gets a bloody site worse. Many people think this is something that couldn’t happen on their site … but we know it does … and more often than you would think!”

Ellison spoke those grim words in promotion of the European association’s 2008 Safety Conference. In the U.S., OSHA estimates that each year forklifts are responsible for 85 fatalities, 34,900 serious injuries and 61,800 non-serious injuries. Of the 855,900 forklifts in operation in the U.S., the Industrial Truck Association estimates that 11% will be involved in an accident this year. Since the useful life of a lift truck is 8 years, 90% of all forklifts will be involved in an accident during their useful life.

The major causes of forklift fatalities are:

  • 42% tipovers
  • 25% crushed between vehicle and a surface
  • 11% crushed between 2 vehicles
  • 10% struck or run over by a forklift
  • 8% struck by falling material
  • 4% fall from platform on the forks

For the past 20 years, forklifts have been the major cause of industrial deaths and accidents in the U.S. Nearly half of forklift fatalities (42%) occur in manufacturing facilities. Construction settings account for 24% of fatalities, followed by wholesale facilities (12.5%), transportation (11%), retail trade (9%) and mining (1.2%).

The likelihood of serious injury or death has spurred many manufacturers and businesses to limit and often entirely remove forklifts from their facilities. Motorized electric carts and tugs are able to perform most forklift tasks more efficiently, more economically and with much greater safety.