Forklift Accident Statistics
Forklifts are indispensable in the construction industry, making tasks like heavy lifting and material handling much more manageable. However, their power also comes with inherent risks. Forklift accidents can lead to severe injuries, loss of productivity, and significant financial burdens for both workers and employers. Here are some eye-opening forklift statistics that every construction worker should be aware of:
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are about 34,900 forklift-related serious injuries each year in the United States alone. In addition, an estimated 62,000 non-serious injuries occur.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that in 2017, there were more than 9,000 forklift-related injuries serious enough for employees to take time off work. In 2018, that number decreased to 7,940. Approximately 1,700 of these injuries involved operators between 25 and 34 years of age.
On average, workers will take 13 days off work for a forklift-related injury compared to 8 days for other types of job-related injuries.
OSHA reports that approximately 85 workers are killed each year in forklift accidents. In 2017, the BLS reported 74 forklift-related fatal accidents. Of those, 20 were caused by non-road accidents, 13 were due to being struck by powered vehicles, 12 from being struck by falling objects, 11 were caused by falling to a lower level, and 9 were pedestrian/vehicle accident cases.
The BLS reported that 96 workers were killed in forklift accidents in 2015. Of those, 42% were caused due to crush injuries from the vehicle tipping over.
Approximately 25% of fatal accidents occur in the construction industry. In 2012, the number one cause of forklift accident fatalities was pedestrians being struck by the vehicle. The second was vehicles overturning.
Most Common Injuries Caused by Forklift Accidents
The most common types of injuries that occur in forklift accidents are as follows:
- Fractures (23%): Fractures caused by forklift accidents can range from minor to severe, depending on factors such as the location of the fracture, the force of impact, and whether there are other injuries. Treatment may involve immobilization with casts or splints, realignment of the bones, and, in some cases, surgical intervention.
- Sprains/Muscle Tears (21%): A sprain is an injury to a ligament, which is the tissue that connects bones. Forklift accidents can lead to sprains when sudden, forceful movements or impacts cause the ligaments to stretch or tear. Common areas for sprains include wrists, ankles, and knees. A muscle tear occurs when muscle fibers are stretched or torn. This can happen during sudden movements or when a muscle is overloaded. In forklift accidents, strains can occur in various muscle groups, including the back, shoulders, and legs.
- Bruises/Contusions (20%): Bruises and contusions are generally less severe than other injuries, but a bruise or contusion to certain parts of the body, such as the brain, can be a severe and potentially life-threatening injury.
- Soreness/Pain (19%): Muscle soreness, joint pain, and soft tissue pain are common symptoms after a forklift accident, especially if there has been a sudden jolt, impact, or strain on the body.
- Other Injuries (11%): Workers can suffer various other injuries, such as damage to the spinal cord, neck and back injuries, concussions, traumatic brain injuries, burns, and more.
- Lacerations/Punctures (5%): Lacerations are deep cuts or tears, while a puncture wound is a deep, narrow wound caused by a sharp object. These injuries can be severe, and immediate medical attention is crucial.
- Amputations (1%): Amputations must take place when a part of the body, such as a limb or extremity, is completely or partially severed or crushed during an accident involving a forklift.
Costs of Forklift Accidents
Forklift accidents can lead to significant financial costs for both construction workers and businesses.
- Medical Expenses: Injuries from forklift accidents often result in substantial medical bills, including hospital stays, surgeries, rehabilitation, and medication.
- Benefits: Workers’ compensation claims can be substantial, particularly for severe injuries that require extended time off work or permanent disability. On average, workers’ compensation claims for forklift-related injuries cost employers $41,003.
- Legal Expenses: If negligence is involved, legal fees and potential settlements can further escalate costs.
- Loss of Productivity: Accidents lead to downtime for investigation, cleanup, and repairs. This can cause delays in project timelines.
- Replacement or Repair of Equipment: Forklifts can be extensively damaged in accidents, necessitating costly repairs or replacement.
- Increased Insurance Premiums: Accidents can lead to higher insurance premiums, impacting the overall cost of business operations.
- Emotional and Psychological Impact: Witnessing or being involved in a forklift accident can have a profound psychological impact on workers, leading to anxiety, stress, and in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Safety should always be a top priority in any workplace, especially in construction, where heavy machinery is involved. Proper training, maintenance, and adherence to safety protocols are essential in preventing these accidents and preserving both lives and livelihoods.