Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program
A 54-year-old Hispanic Worker Was Killed When He Was Crushed by a Forklift
A 54-year-old Hispanic forklift operator died on January 6, 2004, from crushing head injuries received when he was pinned by a forklift that overturned. He was operating the forklift on uneven terrain at the metal recycling facility where he was employed. The decedent was using a rented forklift to move a metal basket filled with scrap metal weighing approximately 1,500 pounds. He was not wearing a seat belt. As the basket was being unloaded into the pile of scrap metal, the forklift turned over and the victim was crushed beneath the cage of the forklift.
Oklahoma Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (OKFACE) investigators concluded that to prevent similar occurrences, employers should:
A 54-year-old maintenance worker died on January 6, 2004, from crushing head injuries received when he was pinned by a forklift that had turned over onto him. OKFACE investigators reviewed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Fatality/Catastrophe Report, the Medical Examiner’s report, the death certificate, and the investigating officer’s narrative. A site visit was conducted on January 30, 2004; OKFACE investigators interviewed the company manager and the corporate environmental and safety manager.
The victim worked for a metal recycling facility that had been in business for 17 years. The company had been located at the site where the incident occurred for 17 months. The company employed 100 people, 11 of whom worked at the site of the incident. The decedent was a full time employee and had worked for the company for seven years prior to the incident. He had been driving a forklift for about four months, although he was not a certified operator. Only one person at the company was certified to operate a forklift; however, the company’s forklift was reportedly available to anyone who needed to use it.
The company had a written safety program in place at the time of the incident. All new employees received orientation training in English or Spanish that covered safety information included in the written program. The victim’s primary language was Spanish; he only spoke a few words of English. His supervisor was not fluent in Spanish, but a co-worker was used as an interpreter when needed. Although the victim could not understand or read English, monthly safety trainings were conducted in English and the victim had signed a statement that he had read the company safety manual.
On the day of the fatal incident, the weather was cool and clear, and the working surfaces were dry. At approximately 11:30 a.m., according to the investigating officer, the decedent was conducting routine work in a metal scrap yard, moving scrap metal across uneven terrain to an area where it could either be cut into smaller pieces with a torch, or ground up into smaller pieces by a shredding machine. He was using a 5,000-pound capacity propane forklift with solid pneumatic tires that had been rented eight days prior to the incident. The company’s regular forklift, which was undergoing repairs, was not the same configuration as the rented forklift; however, the rented forklift was the same model that the company had used in the past during repairs and it did come with an operator’s manual. The employer-owned forklift was a 6,000-pound capacity diesel model and had been modified with an attachment to rotate the forks to allow operation in a more limited area. The victim was using the rented forklift to move a metal basket filled with scrap metal weighing approximately 1,500 pounds. The basket was 9 feet by 4 feet with a depth of 3 feet. The victim was wearing a hard hat, but not a seat belt. As the basket was being unloaded into the pile of scrap metal, the forklift tipped over and the victim was crushed beneath the cage of the forklift. There were no witnesses to the incident; however, a co-worker was on the scene almost immediately. Company officials immediately called 911; however, it took approximately 20 minutes to get the victim extricated from underneath the forklift. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Cause of Death
The Medical Examiner listed the probable cause of death as head trauma.
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Recommendation # 1: Employers should develop, implement, and enforce a comprehensive safety and health training program that includes policies and procedures regarding the safe operation and limitations of forklifts.
Discussion: OSHA regulations provide guidelines for the safe operation of a forklift and other powered industrial vehicles and should be incorporated into a formal safety program. The employer should establish a written program, in the language(s) and literacy level(s) of workers, which includes authorization policies and procedures and includes training in hazard recognition and the avoidance of unsafe conditions. The program should address the requirement for forklift training by a qualified person and the need for retraining if a different model is used. Employers should also ensure that forklifts have appropriate dual-language warning decals on them that declare weight capacity and other hazard warnings to operators.
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