The dramatic pictures of former cricketer-turned-politician, Imran Khan, losing his footing and falling some 15 feet from a forklift truck are a reminder of how dangerous this type of vehicle can be when incorrectly used. It looked like an accident just waiting to happen as half a dozen men clung to the tiny raised platform as it carried the 60 year old aloft to the stage at a bustling political rally in Pakistan.
Back in Britain, it seems that forklift accidents and injury compensation payouts are a daily occurrence as they are never away from the headlines for long. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) there was just under a 5 per cent increase in accidents caused by forklifts between 2010 and 2011. At the same time, the Forklift Truck Association (FLTA) expressed concerned that Britain could again see figures of around 160 incidents every week.
Common reported incidents and subsequent accident claims involve the use of forklift trucks in a restricted warehouse space where vehicles catch the corners or sides of bulky goods pallets or reverse into a co-worker. In nearly all cases, lack of risk assessment and failure to create a segregated space, within which forklifts can safely manoeuvre, is the frequent explanation.
The most recent example of the above type of negligence took place at a paper mill in Kent. According to the court statement, a forklift stacking pallets in a warehouse aisle reversed and backed into a co-worker, crushing him between the truck and a fully stacked pallet rack.
As result, the unfortunate victim suffered three breaks in his right ankle and two fractures to the left leg and is unable to return to work or wear protective boots.
Following an HSE investigation, it was found that the accident occurred in a “fairly narrow aisle with restricted visibility” with a “risk of collision between a moving forklift and a warehouse operative while both are working in the same location.”
According to an HSE inspector, “The incident was entirely preventable” and the company had “failed to make sure that there was a safe vehicle and pedestrian system of work in place” , which would have “prevented vehicles being able to access areas where workers on foot were moving around.”
The paper mill company was fined a total of £9,000 including costs after admitting a breach of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which states: "Every workplace shall be organised in such a way that pedestrians and vehicles can circulate in a safe manner."
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 also instructs that employers have a duty to their employees to provide a safe-working environment in a ‘reasonably practicable’ manner by ensuring that the workers handle and transport objects in a safe way and arrange necessary staff training.