woman driving a forklift

Forklifts are critically important tools across numerous industries. They aid in the movement and transportation of heavy goods. Their operation, however, comes with risks. Those risks can lead to accidents that have severe consequences. Understanding the how, why, and impact of forklift accidents is vital to enhancing workplace safety.

Below we have provided a comprehensive review of statistics and information surrounding forklift accidents. The goal is to shed light on the prevalence, impact, and strategies for avoiding accidents.

The Reality of Forklift Accidents

Forklift accidents, where workers are crushed, hit, or pinned, are a persistent and global workplace concern. These statistics reveal the scope of this issue and the need for proactive safety measures.

In 2020, the National Safety Council (NSC) reported that:

  • There were 1,176,340 events involving employees missing days from work in the United States.
  • 7,290 injuries were due to forklifts, averaging 20 injuries per day.
  • Workers miss an average of 17 days away from work when injured by a forklift in comparison to 12 days missed for injuries unrelated to forklifts.

Fatalities and Injuries from Forklift Crashes

You don’t need much of an imagination to envision the devastation a machine weighing thousands of pounds can wreck when it makes contact with a human body or other objects. To provide some indication, here is National Safety Council data that reveals a sobering perspective on the human cost of these incidents:

  • The NSC reported forklifts as the source of 73 work-related deaths in 2022.
  • 66 of those killed were men.
  • 2% of fatalities were women, who accounted for seven deaths.
  • 42% of fatal forklift accidents involve being crushed by the vehicle, specifically tip overs.
  • Every five days, a forklift in the United States is involved in a fatal accident.

Common nonfatal injuries include:

  • Fractures
  • Bruises/Contusions
  • Soreness/Pain
  • Sprains/Strains/Tears
  • Cuts/Lacerations
  • Multiple traumatic injuries

These injury types are responsible for a combined 87% of nonfatal injuries sustained.

  • 11% of forklifts are involved in some form of accident each year.
  • In 2020, 12.2% of nonfatal forklift injuries occurred to women.
  • A pedestrian being struck by a forklift accounted for 15% of injuries.
  • 5-8% of forklift injuries occur when a worker is caught between an object and the forklift.

cast on a arm and hand

Forklift Accident Statistics Across Different Industries

Not all industries face the same level of risk when it comes to forklift accidents. That’s why analyzing accident rates across sectors provides valuable information for tailoring safety measures to specific workplace environments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • In 2021, the construction industry accounted for 23% of accidents and 11 deaths (15%).
  • That same year, transportation, warehousing, and manufacturing combined for over 3,200 nonfatal incidents and 36 deaths.
  • Retail accounts for 15% of nonfatal incidents.
  • In retail, where forklifts move goods around stores, warehouses, and factories, there is a 15% increase in accidents during the holiday season.
  • For 2020, the farming/fishing/forest industry had 100 total nonfatal forklift injuries.
  • Management/business/financial industry had 190 nonfatal forklift injuries in 2020.

Impact of Forklift Accidents on Workplace Safety

Beyond the obvious consequences for an individual struck by a forklift, these accidents have broader implications for workplace safety and productivity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • In 2020, workers aged 25-34 had 1,400 forklift accidents that caused them to miss work.
  • Workers aged 35-44 had 1,680 forklift accidents that caused them to miss days from work in 2020.
  • Construction and transportation/warehousing are among the top four most dangerous industries.

Forklift incidents directly impact overall safety and productivity. If a portion of your workforce is out with injury, of course productivity drops. Even more, it takes an average of eight days for a workplace to return to normal after an accident. It also leads to:

  • Reduced job satisfaction
  • Increased workload
  • Distractions

Accidents put a strain on the morale and overall well-being of other employees when a colleague is injured or killed.

 Economic Impact of Forklift Accidents

As mentioned, forklift accidents not only take a human toll but also have financial repercussions for businesses. Exploring the economic aspects further emphasizes the importance of preventive measures.

  • The NSC reported the cost of work injuries totaled 167 billion in 2021.
  • Fractures/crush/dislocation workers’ compensation costs averaged $62,240.
  • Struck by accident workers’ compensation average was $40,104.
  • OSHA violations will lead to fines and other indirect legal, productivity, and publicity costs.

Personal Impact of Forklift Accidents

While statistics offer a numerical perspective, the personal and societal effects of forklift accidents are deeply felt by individuals, their families, and their professional communities. Examining specific cases gives a human face to these statistics, emphasizing the real-life impact.

OSHA highlights several fatalities they have investigated. These tragic examples include workers being crushed, pinned, falling from, and struck by forklifts. These incidents emphasize the consequences of defective work platforms, speeding, poor training, and company negligence.

These stories echo the reality that each statistic represents a person – a family member, friend, or colleague. Forklift accidents not only result in physical harm but lead to emotional distress, financial burdens, and lasting consequences for victims and loved ones.

Strategies to Mitigate Forklift Accidents

Preventing forklift accidents requires a combo of common sense and strategic approaches. Here are ways to reduce forklift accidents:

  • Operate forklifts at a safe speed and sound the horn at critical points.
  • Implement and post safe driving practices.
  • Enforce safe driving practices.
  • Keep forklift traffic and pedestrians separate where possible.
  • Conduct regular maintenance and safety inspections.
  • Install lights and audible alarms.
  • Abide by federal law which states it is a violation for anyone under 18 years of age to operate a forklift. Anyone over 18 must be trained and certified to operate a forklift.

Again, behind every statistic is a life. Understanding the potentially high personal and fiscal impact is a reminder of the importance of prioritizing workplace safety to avoid the toll associated with forklift accidents.

SynTech’s comprehensive review serves as a valuable resource for organizations seeking to create safer work environments. We have over 40 years of experience providing training and equipment to work sites. We are also the #1 sales and service provider of the HIT-NOT® proximity alert system. Protect your people and property by calling the knowledgeable SynTech team at (256)571-5024.