Fleet Management & Forklift Safety Blog

What One Careless Forklift Operator Could Cost Your Business

Posted by Thelma Marshall on May 2, 2019 4:00:00 AM

What could one careless forklift operator cost your business? If the result is a serious injury and a subsequent lawsuit, it could cost millions. dollar-2387088_640

The average work-related injury leads to $38,000 in direct expenses and $150,000 in indirect costs. This means that one injury could cost your business a total of $188,000. But, if an injured employee or their family files a lawsuit and your company is found to be at fault, the cost could be more than you imagine.

Take, for example, a recent lawsuit that was settled for a whopping $9 million involving a forklift operator, who admittingly didn’t follow basic safety protocol and backed over a warehouse pedestrian, crushing his leg. The operator described his own behavior as complacent and “inexcusable from a safety standpoint.”

Mishaps like this one often occur when workers get complacent with repetitive work and ignore safety measures. Repetitive work can make even a skilled driver forget that danger is always present and safety procedures should never be skipped. Carelessness can sneak up on you.

In this case, the injured employee underwent nine surgeries in an effort to save his leg but, in the end, was forced to undergo a below-the-knee amputation. But he won the lawsuit because blatant carelessness was at fault, and that is something an employer is required to prevent.

This is where telematics is valuable — the right platform can help keep everyone focused on safety priorities.  

Pedestrian injuries from forklifts

As a manager it’s important to identify anything that increases safety risks in your facility and to find a solution to address it. For example:

  • Poor driver behavior (e.g. speeding, not looking where you are going) can play a big role in injuries to pedestrians.  
  • Some rows or areas may be prone to more accidents due to visual limitations or turns/corners.

The solution:

  • Caution signs should be clearly visible wherever pedestrian traffic and forklifts meet.
  • Telematic operator report cards show each operator’s personal job performance as well a comparison to other operators. They warn of potential issues by tracking speed, the number of impacts or near-miss incidents, safety checklist failures, activity, and certifications.

Managers must stay one step ahead, making sure best practices are always followed — even when their attention is being pulled in several different directions. This may require:

  • Ongoing training, conducted often, because it serves as a reminder. This training doesn’t need to intensive — it could be as simple as holding a weekly, 20-minute safety meeting.
  • Real-time monitoring of speed, which sounds an alarm for infractions, eliminates complacency about speed limits.
  • Know your drivers and how they are performing when under pressure or stress.

Warehouse industries employ over 750,000 people in America, and these jobs carry greater risk of injury than most — with nearly 15,000 injuries occurring annually. Drivers who know they will be held accountable make better and safer choices. Installing a telematic forklift management system can drastically improve driver behavior and control risks.

Topics: driver training, injuries, loss avoidance, Documentation of impacts, human error, safety improvements, safety versus productivity, operator behavior, forklift operators