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Warehouse Worker Dies When Material Falling Off of Pallet Strikes Him — California

Updated April 20, 2023

California Case Report: 22CA002
Release Date: March 15, 2023


On May 13, 2022, a 39-year-old male warehouse worker was acting as a ‘spotter’ and assisting a forklift operator who was moving pallets of cased bottled water near the end of the night shift. The pallets were shrink wrapped, double stacked, and combined stood about 9 ½ feet high. As the forklift operator tried to remove the top pallet, the forks made contact with a portion of the wooden pallet causing it to move and tilt backward slightly. While the forklift operator pulled the forks out and attempted to reposition, the spotter moved behind the pallet, out of line of sight of the operator. When the operator reinserted the forks, the cased water on the pallet shifted against the shrink wrap, which gave way and dumped the cased water on the spotter.
The forklift operator did not realize the spotter was behind the pallet, and it was a couple of minutes before he noticed that the spotter was under the cases of bottled water. The operator and several co-workers moved the spotter, who was unresponsive but breathing, away from the water and called emergency services. Paramedics arrived but were unable to revive the spotter who died from his injuries.
California FACE (CA/FACE) investigators concluded that to help prevent similar occurrences, employers using forklifts to move palletized merchandise should:

  • Ensure employees follow SOPs for forklift work to include constant communication between operators and spotters, adhering to safe working zones while forklifts are operating and ensuring operators always have line of sight to employees working around the forklift.
  • Provide First Aid/CPR training to volunteer employees on all shifts so that First Aid is readily available to all employees per Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requirements

Warehouse Worker Dies When Material Falling Off of Pallet Strikes Him — California [PDF – 950 KB]