Because they move relatively slowly and they are rather low to the ground, many tend to think of forklifts as not dangerous. Young workers often use them, and rarely think about the potential consequences. But with two forklift accidents in Texas recently, perhaps it’s time to consider the danger, and to emphasize the need for employers to take precautions and provide proper training for workers who operate or work around them.
On August 27, a 19-year-old East Texas worker, Drake Floyd, was seriously injured at McCoy’s Building Supply in Lufkin, when he was loading sheetrock, and he became caught between a forklift and a truck, crushing him and causing severe chest injuries. It is not known how long Floyd had been pinned against the truck when customers found him, but first responders used a defibrillator to get his heart pumping, and he was taken from the scene of the accident in cardiac arrest. He was initially transported to Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin, but later that evening he was later flown via medical helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. There, doctors placed him on a ventilator, then performed a battery of tests and came to the conclusion that the forklift caused him to suffer serious oxygen deprivation for an undetermined amount of time and that it’s very likely Floyd suffered brain injuries from the accident.
According to Lufkin police, even though the emergency brake had been set on the forklift, it looked to have rolled forward anyway, pinning Floyd to the side of the truck. Then, last week, a 33-year-old worker, Marco Aurelio Rodriguez, was killed when he was using his forklift to move a container of scrap metal, and the forklift rolled over and fell over the edge of a drainage area. That caused Rodriguez to be thrown from the forklift, and the forklift to fall on top of him.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, at least 100 workers are killed and 20,000 injured every year in accidents involving forklifts, with at least 42 percent of the deaths caused by rollover.
Thorough investigations will be conducted in both of these tragic accidents, and the causes will be discovered. In the first instance, among the questions investigators should ask is, why did the emergency brake fail? Was it because the employer didn’t maintain the forklift properly, or was it a design or mechanical defect. Did the operator in the second accident have the skills and the training to operate the forklift? Was the drainage area properly marked as a hazard for the forklift operator?