Discussion:
Product Liability

Proper forklift safety training is now law in all states and most provinces.

After recieving proper forklift safety training it is the legal responsibility of the operator to drive in a consistantly safe manner and obey all safety rules set in place by the employer. Not to do so could be proven as negligence on the part of the forklift operator.

After giving proper forklift safety training to the operators it is the responsibility of the employer to monitor the forklift operators and enforce the safe operation of the company forklifts.

The employer must prove due diligence on his part if there is ever a fatality.
  • Posted 31 Jul 2004 14:45
  • Discussion started by Al_S
  • Alberta, Canada
Alberta Forklift Safety Council
Serious about safety!
Showing items 1 - 15 of 15 results.
To Laura,
Ever consider a new career in the forklift safety world? The best forklift safety instructors are the ones that can "Walk the Talk" because they know what it actually feels like to be a forklift operator.
To put it another way, most of us have children, right? So, who would you want to teach your eager young adult offspring the fine art of safe forklift operation?

a)A fine young person with a degree in OH&S but does not like to get their hands dirty, let alone know how to drive a forklift properly.
OR
b)A battle scarred forklift veteran, who could actually demonstrate the proper safety techniques required, in a safe and efficient manner.

So Laura, I would like to talk to you about this topic possibility in greater detail, if you don't mind, just email forkliftaction and they can forward my email address to you.

Best Regards
  • Posted 26 Mar 2005 01:10
  • Reply by Al_S
  • Alberta, Canada
Alberta Forklift Safety Council
Serious about safety!
Wow! What a post! I have been following this and sitting on the edge of my chair for the next response, talk about heartwrenching, This should be so very very valuable to everyone!
Laura, my heart goes out to you for what you have suffered, I hope that you achieve some type of compensation at some level, I am amazed at how may jurisdictions do not cover their workers very well with workers compensation. At the manufacturer's level I can bear witness to many many poorly designed forklifts, I spent 27 years repairing, so I do know the many design flaws out there. But there are also responsible manufacturer's with good forklift designs too.
  • Posted 25 Mar 2005 17:26
  • Reply by Al_S
  • Alberta, Canada
Alberta Forklift Safety Council
Serious about safety!
Laura,

I hope a lot of people are paying attention to you. You are giving me tons of discusssion points that will benefit my trainees.

I am a trainer. I do not design lift trucks. I train a lot of operators on stand up trucks. I am not an operator. I operate stand ups all the time in real life situations, for the purpose of demonstrating proper operation.

Here are some things you said that jump out at me:

You have been trained many times and have plenty of on the job experience, and by all measures, you were a good operator and a safe operator with an excellent record, and you still got seriously injured. It can happen to anybody at anytime. Nobody is immune. It's a message I already deliver to my trainees, and I will stress it more now. I'm now paying more attention too! I'm not immune either.

The thing (forklift, brake system, etc.) doesn't consult the operator prior to failing. It craps out on its own schedule. Operators better be made aware of that one. Trainers, are you paying attention?

Laura, a lot of what you said deserves repeating, so I'll quote you:

"..train your people, make them FULLY aware of what might happen.

It is your duty to train them properly. If the person in charge of training seems to be a little lax, stop them from training. Follow up. If everyone always has an A, something isn't right."

So Laura suggests choosing the right person to train, evaluate the trainer and the training regulary, and make sure it is being done right. I'll go along with that, and add something. Evaluate management and supervision, and make sure it is being done right. If careless and unsafe operation is permitted, then training isn't necessarily the problem, certainly not the only problem.

Laura, I know there are big differences between the sit down and stand up, and they each have their hazards. I don't find the sit down to be inherently safer than the stand up. Sorry, but I don't agree with the design flaw argument. Well, not so fast. There is some old equipment still in use that is decidedly less safe than newer stuff, and some of the newer models/brands are a little (sometimes a lot) behind others in operator safety.

Yes, the reality is that real estate ain't cheap, space must be used as efficiently as possible, and stand up trucks designed for a narrow aisle are here to stay. They have been around for about fifty years now, and yes, despite all the lawsuits from injured operators, they ain't going anywhere. You are right, the risks are calculated, and factored in the price. It's true for everything you own, use, buy, rent, drive, wear, eat, and wipe your tush with. We may not like it, but it is what it is.

Your are also correct in that workers comp law provides a very effective sheild protecting employers from litigation. Since the employer is protected, and the manufacturer is not, guess who gets sued? Bingo! The manufacturer. That helps explain why there are so many lawsuits against manufacturers for flawed products. They are the easiest target. Being accused of making faulty machines, does not mean you actually did make faulty machines.

By the way, I once testified in a fatality case, where the widow sued the employer for gross negligence using a provision in workers comp law in Massacheucetts. She lost. It was sit down forklifts, and the deceased was not the operator. Operators aren't the only ones in danger.

One more suggestion from Laura:

"How about adding a safety tape with victims from forklift accidents. Widows and limbless people."

I think it would be rather powerful.

Laura, thank you so much for sharing your story. You have made a difference, and I don't think it's ending here.

Brian
  • Posted 25 Mar 2005 14:38
  • Reply by brian_c
  • Pennsylvania, United States
Yo Dave,

Lighten up. You disagree with my tone. I detect a threatening tone from you. Hello? And you're a trainer?

I thought I was being harsh on the employer. I did not address Laura directly for a reason. My purpose is to present the case from a different viewpoint for the audience to evaluate on their own. As I said, I "suspect" the employer is to blame on many issues: Maintenance, pre-shift inspections, and training. The employer is responsible for all of them. Of course, you already know that. There is obsiously little missing in your vast knowledge base.


Dear Laura,

Despite what the master trainer thinks, I do have a heart. Your situation is most unfortunate, and in my opinion, it was very preventable. My contribution to this discussion is meant to help people who are in a position to make a difference, prevent such events in the future. I trust you would go along with that. I try to present factual information (eg. ASME B56.1 Standard) as well as honest opinions (eg. "my suspects"). Discussion, scrutiny, and evaluation is all good, and helps us all to improve safety. I am sure that is the reason you posted your message, and I thank you for that contribution.

One other thing Laura. It is extremely difficult to prove in court, gross and willful negligence on the part of your employer, but I "suspect" they own some negligence in this case. Educating the employees, and assuring equipment is inspected and maintained are all management responsibilities. It was not within your control. What I suggested was you may have done something differently, and therefore avoided injury, if you had gotten better/more training. I bump into dozens of "experienced" (and previously trained)operators every week who are pretty surprised to learn what they don't know.

One last confession, in case you have not figured it out by now. I do admit some bias towards the manufacture, although I don't even know which brand it is. Some are better than others for sure. Good luck in your case, and I wish you well.

Brian
  • Posted 24 Mar 2005 11:32
  • Reply by brian_c
  • Pennsylvania, United States
laura,

good luck on the recovery, you might make a good trainer with that type of personal experience in your background? Just a thought.

brian,

i don"t think you have much to fear from me but i will speak me mind on serious issues such as this
  • Posted 24 Mar 2005 09:54
  • Modified 26 Mar 2005 00:29 by poster
  • Reply by Panthertrainer
  • Ohio, United States
According to Laura:

The lift, unloaded, going at a reasonable speed should stop very quickly. In my case it did not...

Was it inspected prior to use? Did Laura test it before use? Brake test? Training covers these required procedures.

Laura:

...and since the compartment is not enclosed, limbs are subject to injury.

The compartment is not enclosed in accordance with ASME B56.1 Safety Standard (US), manufacturers requirements for Stand-up End Control Riders. Egress must be provided for the operator in the event of a tip over or if the truck goes off the dock. Doors, gates, operator restraints are not permitted. Again, this is covered during training.

Laura:

Another thing, operators are rarely trained to the extent that is neccesary...

Well, was Laura trained to the extent that is necessary? If no, is that the manufacturer's fault? No, because it is the employer's duty to provide training.

So where was Laura's leg when it was crushed? Inside or oustide the operator compartment. If not inside, then why not? Training again. And how exactly did Laura attempt to stop the truck? Braking? Plugging? Tried to do both simultaneously? (It don't work!)

Training, training, training, and it does not take long to educate an experienced operator in these matters. Oh yeah, according to Laura, she was experienced in a lot of different types of lift trucks. Was the stand-up new to Laura? It sounds like she's been on them a bit. She's convinced they are "by far the most dangerous".

My suspects:

Poor or no routine maintenance, no pre-shift inspections, operator error due to lack of training.

It ain't defective design!!!
  • Posted 24 Mar 2005 09:43
  • Reply by brian_c
  • Pennsylvania, United States
laura,

First of all, let me say that I am sorry about what happened to you and I hope you recover quickly and as fully as possible. Secondly, I agree that training is not done near as well on forklifts as on other equipment like aircraft and trucks. Let me ask a question about your lawsuit if I may? Why are you sueing the manufacturer of the lift and not your employer for providing poor training? What made the lift unsafe, was is a manufacturing defect or poor maintenance by the company? Just curious, I have no vested interest one way or the other.
  • Posted 24 Mar 2005 08:54
  • Reply by Panthertrainer
  • Ohio, United States
As said in many of the replies,I think that it is a must that supervisors or people with authority get involved in the powered industrial truck training. They must understand and govern the rules and safety issues that are taught to the lift truck operators. It is also important that everyone understands that operator restraint has a lot more to do with just seat belts, tethers,and such. It is equally important that people who do not operate but work in close proximity to lift trucks understand the hazards of the lift truck. If you truly want a safe working enviroment everybody must get involved.
  • Posted 4 Feb 2005 04:49
  • Reply by mast1
  • Ohio, United States
It certainly is true that over "capacity" loads (meaning both load weight and load center-of-gravity as placed on the load carriers (X,Y, and Z) cointribute to accidents.

It is also true that the operator has no practical way of determining all of these values and whether they are within the operation limits of the lift truck.

It is also true that it wouldn't involve much additional cost to measure the forces on the rear axle (wheels) and provide a definite indication to the operator (say a warning light) that there are "capacity" issues with the load being carried rather than a feeling in the seat of his pants as is the case without the aformentioned feature.

Safety obviously is in the hands of the operator but I think we should give him everything necessary to operate safely.
  • Posted 27 Jan 2005 23:48
  • Reply by thomas_r
  • Ohio, United States
Workers Comp is the employee's sole legal remedy with the employer, unless a case of gross negligence can be proven. That is a heavy burden to prove in court. I once testified (for the employer) in a fatality case, where the widow charged the employer was negligent. She lost.

Nothing can stop the plaintiff from naming manufacturer, distributor, service provider, even trainer in a suit charging some form of negligence. It doesn't matter if you're right, you must still defend, and it costs you dearly. Each time it happens it results in "loss history" which is recorded and tracked by liability insurance providers, coverage becomes scarce, and your rates soar. The lift truck industry gets slammed.

Safety and training regulation has little affect on our industry's liability issues.

BTW, load scales is a silly idea. How will they account for increased load center? You don't need a lot of weight to "overload" a truck when the weight is extended beyond the rated load center. The operator must be educated in these matters and act accordingly. Freight on a common pallet (48"x40") rarely weighs more than "max load weight". How many 48"x40" pallets have you seen that weigh 3000#? Yes, I know pallet weights are not labeled, but a little homework will get you an estimate. There is a lot more to "capacity" than weight. Operators must be educated.
  • Posted 10 Dec 2004 13:06
  • Modified 10 Dec 2004 13:16 by poster
  • Reply by brian_c
  • Pennsylvania, United States
Nothing is idiot-proof to a motivated idiot.
Have been following the discussion on this topic with great interest. Having been involved with lift trucks for more than 30 years, instead of seeing improvements in relation to the safe use of forklift trucks, it is my opinion that the general situation is actually getting worse. Gone are the days when operators took pride in their equipment, the hurry up mentality prevails to the extent that loads are being moved often at breakneck speeds with little consideration of potential consequences.

Maintenance is a necessary evil which is often limited by the financial constraints as opposed to following manufacturer's recommendations.

It is the employers responsibility to ensure the safety of their employees. Risk assessments should be performed and action taken where potential accidents might occur.

Operators should be selected and trained not only in the safe operation but also in how to perform pre-shift checks and recognise potential problems.

Supervisors should be trained to recognise and understand safe operation and support the maintenance regime.

Management must support and enforce these practices and ensure that equipment is operated safely and maintained properly by trained and qualified personnel.

Fact is, there is no specific legal requirement that can be enforced by authorities which encompasses all of these aspects. Anyone can drive a forklift, anyone can fix a forklift, preventative maintenance is too costly - fix it when it breaks. I welcome the increasing interest paid by Insurance companies as to what actually goes on on site.

It is a to our shame that this situation is allowed to continue with only the legal profession making profit from injury caused to workers exposed to such situations. I sympathise with any forklift operator who refuses to drive faster when told to hurry up.

Surely it is time that an overall code of practice is developed nby industry experts and enforced by the powers that be.
  • Posted 25 Nov 2004 20:05
  • Reply by vic_k
  • Ayrshire, United Kingdom
The most common problem in material handling operatiing facilities is unknown fact about the "weight of the load" being moved, stacked, retrived, etc. The majority of goods handeled do not have load weight marked.
It is always the operator fault when accidents occures. The first thing asked is have you checked the forklift name plate for the maximum load that that particular vehicle can lift. The industry should wake up, stop blaiming the operator's and do something about it.
Solution
It's very simple. Would you drive your car without speedometer. Well, the same applies here. Should you drive / operate the forklift without.....deleted by Admin..... indicator?
  • Posted 12 Nov 2004 00:08
  • Modified 31 Jan 2005 06:28 by administrator
  • Reply by ted_j
  • Ontario, Canada
Forklift overload problems: Would you drive your car without speedometer ?
The original question has led to responses that are I believe are more directly aimed at where the problem lies - the end user.
Sure, we all know that lift truck operators must receive "adequate" safety training & instruction; employers must provide safety training, instruction, experience and supervision; lift trucks must be inspected at the start of each shift and must be maintained in safe working order.
No one has the ultimate answer to reduce injuries or fatalities, but I do believe in one fundamental key - the hands-on supervisors, lead hands or foremen (women). They must be able to recognize an unsafe use of a lift truck and if they are aware, they must take immediate action to stop this unsafe use.
We can look at any lift truck injury or fatality and probably draw a conclusion that the operator was doing something wrong. We can probably agree that this was a habit the driver has been doing many times - many years and the supervisor is aware of it and did nothing to stop this unsafe use.
How many times have we, the privately owned consultants and trainers done a safety course for an employer and the supervisors haven't even sat in? They're "too busy" or "I'm not driving the truck, I don't have to take the course."
A supervisor must be competent to do their job and that means training. My proposals clearly state it's imperative that the hands-on supervisors sit in on my course - at no charge, but few rarely do. If a supervisor hasn't taken a lift truck safety course, he/she is not competent to do their job and how can they recognize all the unsafe acts on a lift truck.
Yes, an operator is ultimately responsible, but that's why we call people "supervisors"; to supervise the employees.
Operators tend to take short-cuts and become complacent: they need effective supervision.
I think enforcement regulators need to look at lift truck accidents in more depth and if an operator was operating a lift truck in an unsafe manner and it can be proven he/she has been doing that before, then someone on the employer side of things needs to be charged for not having due diligence and enforcing safe use of a lift truck.
Ask the manager/owner if they've properly trained their supervisors on the safe use of a lift truck. If they can't prove they have, then it's senior management that can be charged for not having a competent supervisor.
Supervisors that tell an operator to speed up to get the job done or do something in an unsafe manner because it's "quicker" need to understand their legal liabilities. They can be held responsible along with the driver.
In Canada, we had bill C-45 come into effect this year and while I'm not a lawyer (they're still trying to figure out the full ramifications); in layman's terms, my understanding is: if an employer is aware of an unsafe condition or action of their employees, fails to reduce the risk and blatently ignores the unsafe condition or act and an injury or fatality occurs: they could be charged under the criminal code of Canada "criminal negligence" and in the worst case senerio, could get life in jail!
All employees too must share some of this responsibility: if they see someone driving a lift truck in an unsafe manner, they should report it to their supervisor. If they don't, they too can be partially responsible for the injury/fatality.
Sorry for "rattling on" on this subject, but I feel this is the most important key in reducing workplace accidents relative to lift trucks.
How about the statement: 25% of lift truck accidents are a direct result of a hazard in the workplace that (a) has not been identified or (b) no action was taken to reduce the risk?
  • Posted 7 Nov 2004 21:58
  • Reply by garry_p
  • New Brunswick, Canada
Before staring my own forklift safety and training company I worked for a forklift dealer and we were sued many times, along with the manufacturer. In several cases we had not seen or serviced the unit in months or years and the unit was many years old. Both entities were dragged in because of deep pockets and who the lawyers thought they might get money out of. I have been contacted recently by lawyers wanting me to be an expert witness in a fatal accident where an operator and company made some very bad decisions that resulted in the operators death. Although unfortunate, the manufacturer had nothing to do with the accident but was sued. The lawyer was making the arguement that the lift should not be able to physically lift more than the capacity and that all lifts should have had scales installed! I would not help them since I felt the manufacturer was not at fault and that the deceased and his employer were the cause of the accident. I think the new standards in the US will allow manufacturers a chance to better defend themselves since they may be able to prove the proper training was not given, pre shift inspections were not done or the proper maintenance was not completed. I have seen very few true manufacturing defects that have resulted in injury or death.
  • Posted 27 Aug 2004 07:15
  • Reply by Panthertrainer
  • Ohio, United States
Hi Wayne C,

Alberta's new OHS Code became mandatory April 30/2004

Follow Link: http://www3.gov.ab.ca/hre/whs/law/ohs.asp#ohsact
  • Posted 2 Aug 2004 13:37
  • Reply by Al_S
  • Alberta, Canada
Alberta Forklift Safety Council
Serious about safety!

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