Let us face the fact that accident will happen anytime, it is not a question of if but when. According to statistics, OSHA has reported that there are around one hundred thousand forklift-related accidents where operator is either killed or seriously injured. This stat is for US alone. Driving forklift can pose serious hazards to operators, co-workers, and bystanders.
If you an operator who was injured at work and asking if your employer is liable for any damages, we will answer that topic in several accident instances so that you can relate your case where it is much more appropriate.
Let’s Discuss First Prevailing Standard and Regulation
According to OSHA Regulations (Standards - 29 CFR), specifically the 1910.178(l)(1)(i), the employer must ascertain that each of their forklift operator is competent to drive the truck by supplying appropriate and specific forklift safety training. Employer must ensure the completion of the training (formal education and actual demonstration) and trainer evaluation is accomplished. The training course curriculum must tackle the truck and workplace related issues.
OSHA 29 CFR 1910.145(c), caution signs must be used to inculcate that danger is present in the area and necessary precautions must be taken. Caution signs are to be used also to prevent forklift operators from doing unsafe practices. And safety signs must specify general instructions or suggestions for safety measures.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Law, the employer is in charge for the provision of safe working environment to all workers free from any hazards and risks. Here are some of the provision of the law about employer obligations:
- Inspect the workplace to check that it comply the present OSHA standard.
- Provide necessary tools and equipment and ensure that the provided equipment is properly maintained.
- Posting of labels, signages, posters to warn workers about possible hazards in work premises.
- Set up, if there’s none, or update, if there’s an existing forklift operating procedure and let all workers know the procedure implementation so that workers can follow the requirements.
- The delivery of forklift training must be in a language the operators understand.
- If employer operation involves keeping and transporting of hazardous chemicals, the employer shall establish a written program and communication system to train the workers about the risks they’re exposed.
- Implement Injury and Illness Prevention Program. This can lessen occurrence and severity of workplace related injuries.
- Employer must provide access to the medical records to their employees.
- There are more of the these responsibilities, learn more by following this link.
Accident Happened, You’re Injured, What To Do Then?
Forklifts present many dangers for people around in the workplace and to the operator, himself, since he is the one directly driving the truck. Some of the common hazards driving is falling off heavy load onto the operator, forklift can fall into an open sinkhole, forklift if driven in an uneven surfaces or ramps can tilt over, if forklift is unloading loads off the trailer, it can fall between the loading dock and trailer, what ever the circumstance, accident can happen. Some accidents may be slight and negligible, but some unfortunate events involving fatalities do happen.
What will you do if you are involved and injured in a forklift accident? Let’s assess the situation.
If you are not injured but stunned: file an immediate report to your supervisor. The supervisor, or his representative, will make an accident report. You may be questioned to give important details. This is to establish the facts and reason how and why such accident happened so that they can layout preventive measures to avoid such accident from happening in the future. Also, you could be called for a forklift retraining to address the issue.
If you are injured: immediately file first report of injury form(DWC-1). This will formally advise your company of the accident and you are requiring insurance compensation. This must be filed as soon as possible immediately after the forklift accident. If you are needing emergency treatment, you can file the DWC-1 later once you medical condition becomes stable.
The compensation insurance will pay all your medical bills and other expenses stipulated in their binding contract. The other benefit of compensation insurance, is while you are in a medical treatment or recovering from your injury, compensation can give you about 2/3 of your lost salary due to the accident. Cash settlement can also be given to you if the accident resulted to your disability or lost of limb.
If you are injured at work, you are immediately entitled to compensation without further establishment of report of whom is to blame. Your injury from the accident is adequate and sufficient confirmation of your entitlement for the compensation.
Is Your Employer Liable?
To answer this question, I would like you to revisit prevailing standard and regulation discussed above. That way, you can be familiar with the details about this question.
If the employer conformed to laws and regulations, the answer is No. OSHA and employer and even workers are aware of the fact that accident will happen, the primary goal of the company safety program and OSHA standard implementation is to lessen the risk of accident probability and severity of the person’s injury.
OSHA inspector can visit the site for inspection to establish facts of the report after such serious accident. They search company’s safety training record, inspect the area of the accident, and interview other workers involved.
If employer did not provide training, yes, they’re liable. OSHA is very specific, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide the forklift operators of the training they needed. If no training has been supplied to forklift operators, you can file charges.
It is also they responsibility of your employer to provide safe working environment. If you are driving the forklift in an unsafe workplace at the time of the accident, and the situation is contributing factor that lead to the accident, then it could be a basis to file charges or lawsuit against your company.
If negligence is a factor of the accident as well, the liability does not only apply to employer, it could also be imposed to contractor that maintains or develop the workplace, if there’s any.
To Wrap This Up
Getting injured driving forklift at work can be a traumatic for someone. Your employer may or may not be liable. You need to assess first the situation before making a final decision of filing charges.
Knowing also what you are entitled to can save you from hefty medical bills. Know your rights to claim compensation. Know what’s in the insurance contract, understand what are your benefits for working as forklift operator with your present employer.