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Jon Pina. MS CSP

Case Synopsis:

The plaintiff was injured when he was struck by a forklift at the end of his workday as he was on his way to a restaurant. He walked up a set of steps onto a public platform and angled to his left in the direction of the restaurant. At approximately the same time, an employee of a warehouse was operating a sit-down forklift and was traveling in reverse after dropping off a dock plate. In the process of reversing the forklift, the forklift operator drove up onto the left ankle of the plaintiff causing injuries to his ankle. The entire incident was captured on a security video camera.

Expert Analysis:

The plaintiff testified that he had forklift training, 3 months prior to the incident, which consisted of a 15 minute video and was certified. He received no "hand's on" evaluation or written materials. According to OSHA forklift training shall include reference 1910.178(l)(3)(ii)(D) Pedestrian traffic in areas where the vehicle will be operated.

The plaintiff testified that he first started operating forklifts in 1982. He stated, "It's a fairly easy machine to operate. If you can drive a vehicle, you can drive a forklift." A forklift is very different from a vehicle. This difference is required to be part of the training: (1910.178(l)(3)(i)(B) Differences between the truck and the automobile). Forklifts steer with the rear tires which gives them the ability to turn in a close circle.

The plaintiff testified that there was no evaluation of actual driving of the any of the pieces of machine that was included in the certification. According to OSHA training shall include:

Training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g., lecture, discussion, interactive computer learning, video tape, written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operator's performance in the workplace.
The plaintiff testified that he didn't know an OSHA regulation stated, "an operator is required to look and keep a clear view of the travel path." 1910.178(n)(6) The driver shall be required to look in the direction of, and keep a clear view of the path of travel.

Regarding regular inspections, the plaintiff testified that the only thing checked on the forklift was the water level and battery once a week. He didn't know they didn't have to be inspected on a regular basis as required by OSHA. 1910.178(q)(7) Industrial trucks shall be examined before being placed in service, and shall not be placed in service if the examination shows any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle. Such examination shall be made at least daily. Where industrial trucks are used on a round-the-clock basis, they shall be examined after each shift. Defects when found shall be immediately reported and corrected.

The plaintiff testified that he heard no "beeping sound" or "backup signal. The forklift involved in the accident operated electronically and was "not audible" when moving. He indicated that with the peripheral noise, there was "simply no way that anyone can hear a forklift approaching." The review of the videotape revealed no movement by the plaintiff which could be consistent with movement one would expect from someone who had notice of the approaching forklift. By all accounts, the forklift had no flashing lights to warn a pedestrian of its approach.

Although OSHA Standards are laws that apply to employees, they may be used as guidelines for safe practices as in this case.


The case was settled favorably for the plaintiff.

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Jon Pina, MS, CSP, is a Safety, Health, & Environmental Expert. With more than thirty years experience in safety management, loss prevention, construction and demolition, coal, chemical, steel, and hazardous waste abatement, Mr. Pina can observe cases from a well-rounded viewpoint of a Safety and Health professional, construction manager, and "hands on" worker. Among his most notable accomplishments, he has held the position of Construction Manager on many large-scale demolition projects. He also has demonstrated expertise in areas such as the operation of chemical plants and gained field experience as a union journeyman pipe fitter.

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