- July 20, 2022
- Attorney Matt Stoddard
- Premises Liability
Jobs that involve using forklifts, or even being near them, carry abnormally high risks of death and catastrophic injury. This isn’t news. It’s been understood for decades. Yet very little progress has been made toward better protecting forklift operators and their coworkers.
In the year 2020, there were 78 fatal forklift accidents and 7,290 nonfatal forklift injuries in the U.S. Those numbers are quite average, dating back to at least 2011. The changes that swept many industries in 2020, both temporary and permanent, appear to have had little effect one way or the other on forklift safety.
A forklift may not look like a particularly dangerous piece of equipment, but that’s part of the problem. In much the same way that the infamous PeopleMover rides were able to become some of the deadliest attractions in Disney history while moving only two miles per hour, the low speed and unassuming profile of forklifts creates a dangerous false sense of security for users and bystanders.
Of course, while riding a ride is usually recreation, operating a forklift is usually work. It’s done under high stress and time pressure, which can make any activity more dangerous. In “big box” stores, the risk can also be compounded by the presence of customers, and the expectation for employees to perform many different functions, rather than specializing more closely in forklift operations.
Safer forklift usage isn’t impossible, but it does require strong financial motivation on the part of employers. When survivors stand up for their rights, they help fuel that motivation.
A Woman Was Recently Impaled in a Roswell Home Depot Forklift Accident
On the evening of June 14th, 2022, a Home Depot employee responded to a call for help from inside the store’s receiving area. There, he found a coworker standing on part of a forklift, pinned between the forklift itself and a cardboard compactor. When he tried to free her, he found that she had been impaled through the ribcage on a five-foot prybar, which was somehow stuck in the cardboard compactor.
Firefighters ultimately had to cut through the prybar in order to extricate the woman, and transported her to Wellstar North Fulton Hospital to have a section of it removed from her body.
While the victim is thankfully expected to make a full recovery, being impaled through the chest is no small injury, and her rehabilitation will likely be long, painful, and costly. Her accident is also an example of how suddenly and dangerously forklift usage can go wrong.
Workers for businesses like Home Depot depend on their employers to institute and enforce effective safety policies to avoid premises liability incidents, and to make sure everyone handling hazardous equipment is fully trained to do so. They also depend on their employers — and the employer’s suppliers — to provide well-designed and well-maintained equipment that isn’t any more dangerous than it needs to be. Any broken link in this support system can cause accidents like these.
Industrial Accidents May Warrant Both Worker’s Comp Claims and Civil Suits
Victims of workplace accidents like the one at the Roswell Home Depot are entitled to worker’s compensation. Unfortunately, they are typically not allowed to sue their employers, unless their worker’s comp claim is rejected.
There’s no downside to filing a worker’s comp claim after an accident. Doing so does not require the worker to waive any rights, it can prevent the accident from being covered up, and it helps pay medical bills at a critical time. The problem is that worker’s comp does not compensate for pain and suffering, and only partially compensates lost income.
To collect more complete compensation, many workplace accident survivors can simultaneously pursue civil suits against any companies that contributed to the accident, other than the employer. For example, in the Roswell incident, if the forklift or cardboard compactor lacked safety shutdown mechanisms, the equipment manufacturers could be liable for the worker’s injuries. Any third-party maintenance companies for the equipment should also be scrutinized.
If you are the survivor of the Roswell forklift accident, or you have also been injured while working with forklifts, reach out to The Stoddard Firm to learn more about your options.