Forklifts are indispensable tools in warehouse and manufacturing environments, but they can also cause significant personal injury and damage products and property. That’s why the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, better known as OSHA, has so many different rules governing forklift safety—and means to enforce those rules.

Let’s look at forklift accidents, the cost of those accidents, and how telematics can help mitigate these costs (and improve profitability).

Forklifts are indispensable tools in the workplace, but they cause thousands of workplace injuries each year. Telematics are a great way to minimize these risks. Click To Tweet

How Common Are Forklift Accidents?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forklift-related accidents cause more than 7,000 non-fatal injuries with days away from work each year. In addition, between 2011 and 2017, more than 600 workers also died from forklift-related incidents. Of course, many accidents are unreported, meaning the actual figures are likely far higher.

The most common injuries include:

Event Nonfatal Fatal
Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects 7% 1%
Struck by falling object or equipment—other than powered vehicle 6% 16%
Struck by powered vehicle—non-transport 15% 18%
Falls to lower Level 6% 15%
Non-roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicles 23% 27%
Pedestrian vehicular incidents 20% 12%

Source: BLS

OSHA Rules & Regulations

OSHA imposes many safety rules on employers regarding the safe operation of forklifts. For instance, employers must implement an approved OSHA Safety Training Program that goes over regulations and concepts to provide operators with the understanding needed to safely utilize the equipment and minimize the risk of injury or death.

Other OSHA rules impacting forklifts include:

  • All forklifts must meet specific design and safety standards, such as an overhead guard to prevent occupational injury. (29 CFR 1910.178(a)(2))
  • Employers shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator can operate a forklift safely by complying with training program requirements and safety management and safety programs specific to forklifts. (29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1)(i))
  • Employers should not allow anyone to walk beneath the elevated portion of a forklift. (29 CFR 1910.178(m)(2))
  • All forklifts must be examined at least daily before being placed in service, and forklifts used around-the-clock must be examined after each shift. (29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7))
  • Any powered industrial truck that’s not in safe operating condition shall be removed from service, and all repairs should be made by authorized personnel. (29 CFR 1910.178(q)(1))
  • Defects must be immediately reported and corrected. (29 CFR 1910.178(q)(7))
  • Employees should have access to personal protective equipment, such as helmets and safety glasses.

Some of these requirements may seem onerous and difficult to enforce in practice. After all, it may take a lot of time to thoroughly inspect a fleet every shift. The good news is these efforts can improve productivity, reduce accidents, and lower maintenance costs, improving your bottom line. Even better: technology can help automate some of the work.

These safety regulations should also be a bare minimum. For example, OSHA doesn’t require ongoing monitoring of driving behavior, but implementing such a program could identify unsafe situations before they result in an accident. As a result, you could avoid both costly OSHA penalties as well as worker’s compensation and the human costs of injury.

Measuring the Cost of Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents are one of the most common violations reported to OSHA. But a violation doesn’t always mean that an incident occurred—it may appear during an OSHA investigation too. OSHA may issue a citation, and multiple citations can trigger significant fines and penalties when it identifies unsafe conditions.

Gravity-based penalties fall under a few categories:

Type Minimum Penalty Maximum Penalty
Serious $964 per Violation $13,653 per Violation
Other than serious $0 per Violation $13,653 per Violation
Willful or repeated $9,630 per Violation $136,532 per Violation
Posting requirements $0 per Violation $13,653 per Violation
Failure to abate N/A $13,653 per Day

Source: Safety by Design

Repeat violations that occur within three years involve stiffer penalties of up to $136,532. In addition, willful violations that happen when the employer knows there’s a risk to an employee and does nothing to resolve it have the same stiffer penalty levels. However, these penalties are reduced by up to 80%, depending on the number of employees.

In addition to OSHA penalties, companies may need to deal with workers’ compensation and lawsuits. According to the NCCI, the most costly lost-time workers’ compensation claims by cause of injury were from motor vehicle crashes at an average of $78,466 per claim in 2017 and 2018. Even minor cuts or scrapes could cost upwards of $23,000 per claim.

Improve Safety & Compliance with Telematics

Telematics are one of the best ways to improve safety and compliance to minimize the risk of safety incidents and OSHA violations.

For example, forklift telematics can lock out unauthorized drivers and enforce a safety checklist before each use. In addition, the centralized reporting from these features makes it easy to verify compliance during an OSHA investigation, avoid liabilities, and view safety trends over time to ensure constant improvement and prevent regressions.

Powerfleet provides a variety of safety technology solutions, such as:

  • Forklift and Industrial Safety Light Solutions promotes workplace safety by preventing dangerous pedestrian and vehicle collisions. The forklift-mounted device projects a bright LED line on the floor’s surface, alerting pedestrians in the area regardless of ambient noise.
  • Impact Management protects equipment from abusive operators by sensing an impact that exceeds a predetermined level and alerting management to the harsh hits and improper handling.
  • Speed Monitoring measures speed, distance, and over-speed events to ensure vehicle operators are held accountable. You can set audio and visual alarms when exceeding a speed limit.
  • Weighing Systems can help provide accurate and reliable weight readings to ensure that forklifts aren’t lifting more than their designed capacity.
  • Camera Systems can help train and coach employees on driving behaviors and operating conditions. In addition, companies use the camera technologies to lower costs of damage and provide proof of insurance claims.
  • Pedestrian Alert solutions help reduce or eliminate the risk of incidents involving forklifts and Pedestrians.
  • Access Control Systems manage access with an existing employee ID to ensure driver training and accountability. Gain peace of mind knowing that only certified operators are using equipment.
  • Automated Checklist ensure regulatory compliance with OSHA by using an electronic checklist completion before vehicles can operate.

In addition to improving safety, forklift telematics can help streamline operations and improve profitability. For example, Powerfleet IQ provides an in-depth look into fleet utilization to optimize asset allocation across locations, downsize fleets when necessary, or support purchasing decisions. It even integrates with WMS and ERP software systems.

The Bottom Line

Forklifts are a significant source of safety incidents and OSHA violations. Fortunately, telematics can make it easier to prevent these violations and create a culture of safety. And more, these solutions can provide unparalleled fleet visibility to streamline operations and maximize profitability over the long run.

To learn more about Powerfleet’s telematics, browse our product catalog or contact us for a free consultation.

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