MARYLAND PRODUCTS LIABILITY LAW: Investigating forklift injuries and lift-truck fatalities caused by product defects in manufacturing and design

Maryland Products Liability Lawyers Investigating Forklift Accidents Resulting in Injury or Death.

Serious personal injury or death can occur from the operation of a forklift (also known as a lift-truck) in a warehouse facility or other work environment. Unlike an automobile or most sit-down forklifts where a metal frame surrounds and protects the operator, many stand-up forklifts expose the operator to the surrounding environment without any protection against collision with objects that may intrude directly into  the area where the forklift operator stands to operate the vehicle as it moves backwards and side to side. Without protection, the operator is exposed to severe injury or death  from being crushed or impaled by stationary objects in the operating environment such as over hanging shelves and other protrusions in the environment. An example of such an injury can be seen in a video at Stand Up Fork Lift Underride Awareness. These types of injuries are known as “horizontal intrusion accidents” or “under-ride injuries” and they could be completely avoided in many cases by the simple addition of a a rear vertical posts or extended backrest protection. Failure to install such basic safety precautions or to warn of known under-ride dangers can make a forklift an unreasonably dangerous product for even a trained forklift operator. In cases of injury or death resulting from a horizontal intrusion / under-ride accident, a forklift manufacturer may be held legally responsible for negligence and products liability defect claims.

Stand Up Forklift / Lift-Truck Fatalities and Injuries from Under-ride Collision with Stationary Objects.

The U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a Safety and Health Information Bulletin regarding Standup Forklift Under-ride Hazards, which contains the following diagram from an investigation of a fatality at a warehouse where a stand up forklift operator was found pinned between the lower horizontal crossbar of a storage-rack shelving system and the interior of the operator’s compartment.

Forklift dangerous product defect

Stand-up forklifts allow one person to transport heavy loads in narrow spaces with little effort. However, they also present unique collision dangers when rear safety bars or Back protection is are omiited . As shown in the picture to the left, under-ride accidents often occur, where forklift drivers accidentally back into a shelving rack. According to OSHA, this photograph from its Bulletin (link above) depicts a forklift under a storage rack after an under-ride accident. The crossbar is protruding above the operator’s cab. Forklift manufacturers have various features available to assist in preventing such under-rides.Stand up truck-lift under ride accident

Manufacturing Defects in Stand-Up Forklifts.

There is extensive manufacturing knowledge of how forklift under-ride accidents occur. According an American Society of Mechanical Engineers Report examining approximately 3,000 stand-up lift truck accidents (as opposed to sit-down forklift accidents), the operator of a stand-up lift truck is at greater risk of being involved in a collision with a stationary object than at risk for an accident involving the stability of the forklift. Greater than 50% of the approximately 3,000 accidents studied involved a collision between a stand-up forklift and a stationary object, resulting in approximately 700 serious injuries and 22 deaths of stand-up forklift operators. Under ride accidents would dramatically decrease if all stand-up forklifts were required to have vertical posts in the back.

On-going Maryland Investigation of Stand-Up Forklift / Lift-Truck Fatality.

We are currently investigating a stand up forklift accident for a Maryland client. If you or or someone you know experienced or witnessed such a such injury and/or have information that you would like to discuss regarding forklift manufacturers, safety devices, under ride protection and under ride injuries in Maryland, please contact an attorney at Cowie & Mott





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