Amazon Fined Following Forklift Death of Indiana Warehouse Worker

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
    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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