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Employer Liability

Author: Jeff Ord,

Forklift Driver Certification

Forklift accidents can be traced to two causes. Forklift operator error, which is due to a lack of training and evaluation or defective equipment. In both cases, the employer can be held liable in a lawsuit when an employee sustains injury from a forklift truck regardless of cause.

It is the responsibility of the employer to be certain that all lift trucks are safe, free of repair or defect, and that all operators are properly trained and authorized, as required by the OSHA Federal Regulation 1910.178 to operate a powered industrial truck.

Forklift operator training does not necessarily have to represent a major expense for employers. It should be viewed as a means to control costs since defending even a single unjustified lawsuit would easily outstrip the expense required to provide the appropriate training from the beginning.

Forklift Driver Certification

A forklift certification training program should focus on areas of greatest risk. One of the most common causes of forklift accidents involves the operator driving too fast, particularly when moving a heavy load. This is an example of the type of accident that can be avoided by clearly establishing a comprehensive forklift operator training program that complies with the elements of the Federal Regulation.

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Forklift Insurance

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has reported that there were over 34,000 injuries requiring emergency room treatment as a result of powered industrial truck accidents in 1985 alone. Many of these injuries resulted in severe, incapacitating injuries and some in the death of forklift operators (documented in the Journal of Safety Research. Vol. 18, pp 179-190, 1987). The overwhelming majority of these accidents resulted from operator error and could have been avoided from proper forklift certification. An earlier NIOSH report indicated that better trained and certified forklift operators reduced their rate of error by 70% (documented in the Journal of Safety Research, Vol. 15, pp 125-135, 1984).

Factory Mutual Engineering and Research reviews the statistics of one major commercial property insurance company, reporting 86.8 million dollars of damage over a 10-year period to warehouses and plants due to the improper, careless operation of powered industrial trucks.

The most effective means to keep insurance costs down is by preventing losses from happening in the first place. The notion that loss control only means more regulations, and that accidents resulting in injury or damage are an inevitable part of business, is wrong and could be expensive to accept. Conversely, working to prevent accidents with safety training for individuals will boost employee productivity and morale, increase profit margins and hold down insurance costs.


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