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Amazon Fined Following Forklift Death of Indiana Warehouse Worker

Jason Reese

State Fine Looms Over Amazon Worker Death

The Indiana Department of Labor has slapped mega online seller Amazon with a $28,000 state fine over several safety violations that resulted from a warehouse worker’s death after a forklift lift fell on him. The IDL’s order says, “Amazon didn’t provide adequate training and safety procedures weren’t followed” before the September 2017 tragic accident at the company’s Plainfield distribution center. The 59-year-old employee from Indianapolis was fatally crushed by the lift when it fell on him while doing maintenance work on the heavy machine. Amazon has until early December to correct the safety violations and just a few weeks left to appeal the fine. Of the top 10 workplace violations, forklift violation is typically the number one citation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that one million forklifts, also known as powered industrial trucks (PITSs), are used in workplaces across the United States and take the lives of nearly 100 workers and leaving another 20,000 seriously injured in related incidents each year. Workers can be injured in rollover accidents, crushed by falling objects and cargo, or even run over by forklift operators who are distracted or are not following safety protocols that are designed to prevent careless operation. These trucks remain extremely dangerous given the size and weight.

Technical Aspects of Forklift Operation

In most construction and manufacturing industries, forklifts are used each day to lift heavy loads and transport supplies. They can either be ridden by a trained operator or controlled by a walking operator. According to Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, PITs can be especially unforgiving under the wrong conditions. A 2016 article stated, “Operators need to understand that PITs are very different from regular vehicles in the way they maneuver and are balanced. Employees who have never driven a PIT will not have the innate knowledge and skill to drive one without training.” For this reason, much of the required training is focused on operation, load capacity, stability, and understanding operating limitations which include:

  • Center of Gravity: The size and the center of gravity of a load can directly affect the safe lifting capacity of the PIT. Positioning the center of gravity as close as possible to the center of the PIT will help keep the vehicle from toppling sideways, especially when turning.
  • Load Center: The load center relates to the distance of the center of gravity from the vertical face of the forks. Keeping the load as close as possible to the vertical face will help keep the load from overcoming the counterweight at the rear of the vehicle and causing it to tip forward. Simple calculations can be used to determine whether a load can be handled by a particular forklift: Capacity x rated Load Center = Maximum Allowable Inch-Pounds. Dividing this by a load’s actual load center will tell you the maximum allowable weight for the load. For example, let’s say a forklift has a 4000-pound capacity with a 24-inch load center. The Maximum Allowable Inch-Pounds is 96,000 in-lbs. Suppose a load has a 30-inch Load Center. Dividing 96,000 by 30″ results in 3,200 pounds, the maximum the load can weigh to be safely lifted by this forklift.
  • Stability Triangle: This is a triangle formed by the front axle and the rear center point in line with the rear axle. The combined center of gravity (load center plus vehicle center of gravity) must stay within the stability triangle to maintain stability. Speed of travel, centrifugal force from turning, load height, mast tilt, ground slope, and various other factors also will affect the location of the combined center of gravity.

OSHA officials say, “Employers must ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by the successful completion of the training and evaluation.” This means only certain individuals are trained and approved to operate this machinery, as it takes special learned skills to control such vehicles. However, even the most experienced forklift operators can be involved in a catastrophic accident ending with a tragic workplace injury or even death. It is a violation of Federal law for anyone under the age of 18 to operate a forklift or for anyone over 18-years-old who is not properly trained and certified to do so.

If You Have Been Injured in a Forklift Accident

OSHA research has shown that both defective and failing products such as overhead guards, backrest extensions, blades and restraint systems, or improper training and maintenance are at the center of most forklift accidents and injuries, leaving the employer liable. When this happens, the injured person or deceased worker’s family may have a case to support their need for compensation to cover lost wages, medical bills and related healthcare expenses, disability payments, pain and suffering including emotional distress, as well as other needs specific to their case. If you or someone you know has been killed or injured in a forklift accident or other industrial vehicle accident, they should follow these steps.

  • Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Notify your employer and file an injury or accident report.
  • Preserve legal rights by hiring an attorney because the employer has likely already done the same. Contact a work construction accident lawyer at Wagner Reese to assist you in gathering evidence and filing your suit.
  • Collect statements from witnesses and coworkers at the event.
  • Never sign or agree to anything your employer gives you without first consulting with your lawyer.

Forklift accidents can be fatal or have lifelong, disastrous outcomes and the injuries can be more than physical but still happen each day even though workers have the right to a safe workplace.

If you sustained an injury or lost a family member because of a workplace forklift accident, Stephen Wagner and Jason Reese can handle your accident work injury or wrongful death claim with years of experience and proven results. Employers are prohibited from reacting against employees for raising a health and safety concern or reporting an injury. Call the law firm of Wagner Reese today 888-710-9377 for your FREE consultation!

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