A 35-year-old material handler was killed after she was crushed against a podium by a backing forklift. The forklift did not have any rear-view mirrors. On the day of the incident, a forklift operator was moving pallets on the dock in the same area as the victim. The forklift was in good operating condition and the back-up alarm was working at the time of the incident. The operator was backing his forklift in an “S” pattern and turning to his left. According to the forklift operator’s statement, prior to backing the forklift he looked over his shoulder into the area where he was backing. He determined the area was clear, but he did not continually look behind him as he was backing up. During this time, the victim exited a trailer and stood by a podium, facing away from the forklift. The forklift operator backed into the victim, crushing her against the podium. Emergency medical services performed emergency procedures and transported the victim to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
To prevent future occurrences:
- Ensure forklift operators constantly look in the direction of travel. In this incident, the forklift operator may have become accustomed to his task and assumed that the area was clear as he was backing.
- Engineer a podium that would have material handlers facing the dock. In this case, the podium was anchored to the pillar that supported the roof over the dock. Installing portable clipboards on the pillars would allow material handlers to maintain eye contact with any forklift in the area.
- Employers and manufacturers should consider additional warning systems for forklifts. Installation of strobe lights or different noises in addition to the standard back-up alarm would help warn workers about a backing vehicle.
- Employers should consider changing the type of forklift being used on docks to those where the operator stands sideways. The standard sit-down type of forklift used in most industries is versatile, but a drawback of this type of forklift is that the operator sits in the direction of forward travel and the machine often travels in reverse. Being able to see in the direction of travel at all times is essential to the safety of workers in the area.