During the fall of 2003, a 35-year-old warehouse worker was killed when his forklift slammed into the edge of an empty horizontal metal rack beam. He was operating a standup reach forklift, which normally has the operator's left side facing the rear of the machine. The man was driving his forklift in reverse down an alleyway when he crashed into the rack beam, which was in a T-intersection in the warehouse. This brand of forklift had an overhead guard to protect from falling objects, but had no protection from horizontal components entering the rear of the operator's station. There was nothing on the pallet deck to cushion the impact, therefore, the man was crushed between the rack beam and the rear of the forklift mast, and died from traumatic asphyxia. There was no evidence the man was braking at the time, therefore his machine was likely traveling at 7 mph, its maximum speed. The man was an experienced worker and had no reason to be in a hurry at that time in his work shift. It is assumed he simply got distracted and was unaware he had entered the T-intersection. Another worker in the warehouse heard the sound of the crash and found the victim crushed in the machine. He was unable to move the forklift, then immediately called 911. The victim was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Recommendations based on our investigation are as follows: 1. Operators of industrial forklifts should always be diligent to face the direction of travel, mindful of their exposure to warehouse hazards that could enter their work station. 2. Warehouse managers should examine rack beam heights throughout their facilities to see if hazardous areas exist. 3. Manufacturers of standup reach forklifts should include vertical framing or posts at the rear corners of their machines, from the operator's console to the overhead guard, to protect the operator from horizontal components entering the operator's station. 4. Lease Companies or warehouse facilities with an inventory of unprotected standup/narrow-aisle forklifts should consider options to replace or retrofit their equipment.
Region-7; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Work-operations; Work-analysis; Work-areas; Work-performance; Work-practices; Safety-education; Safety-equipment; Safety-measures; Safety-monitoring; Protective-measures; Equipment-operators; Equipment-reliability; Personal-protective-equipment; Protective-equipment; Warehousing