Forklift Accident Statistics in the U.S.

Get the statistics on what types of injuries occur from forklift usage in the workplace.

Powered industrial trucks or lift trucks, more commonly known as forklifts, are used to move large objects or several smaller objects by raising, lowering, or relocating the materials. There are many types of forklifts, and they can either be ridden by a forklift operator or guided by a walking operator.

While powered industrial trucks are considered essential equipment in many industries, they can also be dangerous. This article will review workplace forklift accident statistics in the United States.

Forklift accidents cause 88 deaths per year

Notable Statistics:

  • Between 2011 and 2017, 614 workers were killed in forklift accidents, for an average of about 88 deaths per year.
  • Between 2011 and 2017, 60,720 forklift-related injuries or illnesses resulting in missed work occurred, for an average of 8,674 serious injuries each year.
  • The 9,050 serious forklift injuries that occurred in 2017 caused workers to take a median of 13 days away from work.
  • The most common causes of fatal forklift incidents include forklift overturns, workers on foot struck, crushed or pinned by a forklift, and workers falling from a forklift.

Number of Forklift Accidents

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) fact sheet “Occupational Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities Involving Forklifts” published in June 2019, 614 workers were killed in forklift accidents between 2011 and 2017, for an average of about 88 deaths per year.

Additionally, 60,720 forklift-related injuries or illnesses resulting in missed work occurred in the same period, for an average of 8,674 serious injuries each year. The 9,050 serious forklift injuries that occurred in 2017 resulted in a median of 13 days off work, with 2,050 involving non-roadway accidents and 1,850 involving pedestrians.

The number of forklift-related injuries and deaths for each year is listed in the chart below.Forklift-related injuries and deaths

Causes of Forklift Accidents

According to the BLS, the leading causes of the 74 fatal forklift injuries that occurred in 2017 are as follows:

  • Being struck by a nontransport powered vehicle
  • Being struck by falling objects
  • Falling to a lower level
  • Pedestrian vehicular incidents
  • Nonroadway incidents

The percentages of the leading causes of workplace injuries and fatalities that involved forklifts in 2017 are listed in the chart below.Causes of forklift accidents The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that the most common causes of fatal forklift incidents include forklift overturns, workers on foot struck, crushed or pinned by a forklift, and workers falling from a forklift.

After reviewing case studies, NIOSH reported that the forklift itself, the operator’s actions, and workplace conditions are all major contributing factors in forklift fatalities. Additionally, NIOSH concluded that many workers and employers do not follow safety procedures for the proper use of forklifts to reduce the risk of injury and death.

Forklift Safety Hazards

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), operating each type of forklift involves different hazards. For example, a sit-down lift truck is more likely to be involved in a falling load accident than a motorized hand truck, as sit-down trucks can lift loads much higher than hand trucks.

The type of workplace and its conditions are also factors in what kind of hazards will be presented by powered industrial trucks. For example, retail establishments often struggle more than other types of workplaces to maintain pedestrian safety.Common hazards for forklift workers

OSHA Forklift Safety Recommendations

OSHA indicates that the best way to protect workers from forklift injury varies depending on the type of powered industrial truck and the worksite where it is being used. Still, all employers must ensure that operators know how to use a forklift safely by successfully completing the training requirements outlined in 29 CFR 1910.178(l)(1).

In general, OSHA makes the following recommendations for safe forklift operation:

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when operating a forklift.
  • Always wear a seatbelt (if the lift truck has one).
  • Never exceed the load limit and keep loads stable and balanced.
  • Do not raise or lower the load while the forklift is in motion.
  • Keep a safe distance away from the edges of platforms and ramps.
  • Maintain awareness of other vehicles on the worksite.
  • Keep the work area’s visibility clear, and make sure you have sufficient clearance when raising, loading, and operating a forklift.
  • Use proper footing and the handhold when entering a forklift.
  • Use the forklift’s horn at cross aisles and other obstructed areas.
  • Keep an eye out for pedestrians and follow the speed limit.

If you have been injured on the job in a forklift accident, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will reimburse you for the costs associated with injury in many situations. However, in some circumstances, you may be eligible to pursue a lawsuit against your employer instead of receiving payment from workers’ compensation.

To determine the best course of action based on the facts of your injury, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options. Most law firms offer free initial consultations to review the circumstances surrounding your injury and determine whether you have a legal cause of action.

Amy Grover is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio. After graduating magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, then passing the bar exam in 2014, Amy began her diverse career as a practicing attorney. Amy has a range of experience in the legal field, including work with the Department... Read More >>