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Employer Liability

Monday, July 1, 2013

By: Forklift Safety Training Services, Inc.

Forklift accidents can be traced to two causes – operator error, which is due to a lack of training, and defective equipment. In both cases, the employer can be held liable in a lawsuit when an employee sustains injury from a forklift regardless of cause.

It is the responsibility of the employer to be certain that all lift trucks are safe, free of repair or defect, and that all operators are “trained and authorized”, as required by the OSHA Federal Regulation 1910.178.

Operator training does not necessarily have to represent a major expense. It should be viewed as a means to control costs since defending even a single unjustified lawsuit would easily outstrip the expense required to provide the appropriate safety training at the outset.

Safety training courses should focus on those areas of greatest risk. One of the most common causes of forklift accidents involves the operator driving too fast, particularly when moving a heavy load. This is an example of the type of accident that can be avoided by clearly establishing a comprehensive operator training program that complies with the elements of the Federal Regulation.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has reported that there were over 34,000 injuries requiring emergency room treatment as a result of lift truck accidents in 1985 alone. Many of these injuries resulted in severe, incapacitating injuries and some in the death of the operator (documented in the Journal of Safety Research. Vol. 18, pp 179-190, 1987). The overwhelming majority of these accidents resulted from operator error and could have been avoided. An earlier NIOSH report indicated that better trained lift truck operators reduced their rate of error by 70% (documented in the Journal of Safety Research, Vol. 15, pp 125-135, 1984).

Factory Mutual Engineering and Research reviews the statistics of one major commercial property insurance company, reporting 86.8 million dollars of damage over a 10 year period to warehouses and plants due to the improper, careless operation of lift trucks.

The most effective means to hold down insurance costs is by preventing losses from happening in the first place. The notion that loss control only means more regulations, and that accidents resulting in injury or damage are an inevitable part of business, is wrong and could be expensive to accept. Conversely, working to prevent accidents will boost employee productivity and morale, increase profit margins and hold down insurance costs.

For more information contact Forklift Safety Training Services, Inc., P.O. Box 60577, Boulder City, NV 89006 800/494-3225, 702/294-3970, Fax: 702/294-3973, or visit

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