Driver killed in borrowed forklift accident

News Story
- 8 Feb 2024 ( #1165 ) - Olympia, WA, United States
2 min read
The truck driver was in the blind
zone on the opposite side of the trailer when the crate was pushed off.
Source: FACE
The truck driver was in the blind zone on the opposite side of the trailer when the crate was pushed off. Source: FACE

A driver was crushed and killed when a forklift pushed a 2,500 lb. (1.1 T) crate off his truck, according to an assessment published by the Washington State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program.

The 63-year-old driver, who worked for a sheet metal roofing manufacturer, was delivering a load to a construction site on 23 March, 2023 when the accident happened.

The FACE report said the driver’s unusually long load left no room on his trailer for the forklift he usually carried to unload deliveries.

He asked construction workers at the site if they could use their company’s telehandler forklift to unload the trailer for him.

A lead carpenter operated the forklift assisted by spotters at each end of the trailer.

They unloaded some smaller crates first from the passenger side of the trailer.

The driver then directed the forklift operator to lift two of the longer crates at one time from the same side so he could pull the truck forward from under them.

He left the workers and went to the driver’s side of the trailer to put cargo straps into the underbody toolbox.

As the operator began to lift the crates, the third crate was inadvertently pushed off the driver’s side of the trailer.

When the construction workers heard the crash, they went around the trailer and found the driver crushed under the fallen crate, which weighed around 2,500 lb. (1.1 T).

They used a skid steer to lift the crate off him, started CPR and called 911 but the victim died at the scene.

Following the incident, FACE investigators found:

  • The crate base lacked enough clearance for the telehandler’s forks to slide under it unobstructed;
  • The telehandler operator and spotters had obstructed views of the load and workers on the ground;
  • The telehandler operator and spotters thought the driver was in his truck cab when they were unloading the trailer; and
  • The driver was not wearing a hi-visibility vest or hardhat

FACE investigators concluded that, to help prevent similar occurrences, employers should:

  • Provide initial and refresher cargo securement training for flatbed drivers that emphasises pre-task planning; maintaining situational awareness and clear visibility of workers, vehicles, equipment, and loads; wearing high-visibility clothing and PPE; and identifying blind zones around trailers.
  • Prohibit forklift operators from unloading freight on flatbed trailers unless they are trained and certified.
  • Create and enforce a standard operating procedure (SOP) policy for unloading freight in their accident prevention program (APP) that requires truck drivers to: o Perform a site hazard analysis of the unloading area and develop a method for preventing workers from being harmed by falling or shifting freight and movement of material handling equipment.
  • Place high visibility warning signs at each end of the blind zone on the opposite side of the flatbed trailer from where the forklift or crane operator is unloading.
  • Mark the blind zone even when a spotter is present, and make sure no one enters it.
  • Verify signage and other safeguards before starting work. o Wait in cab or designated safe zone when other workers operate forklifts or cranes.
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