Forklifts are heavy and dangerous pieces of machinery that can cause serious and lasting injuries. In the UK there are around 1,300 forklift truck accidents a year which result in workers needing hospital treatment.
These accidents at work can have a massive detrimental impact on the injured person, their family, financial situation, and overall quality of life.
Accident figures show that 43% of incidents involving a forklift truck were impacts with a third person. Of these:
- 65% were pedestrians engaged in activities unrelated to the immediate truck operation
- 20% were co-workers/supervisors
- 15% delivery drivers watching or assisting with loading/unloading their vehicle.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we regularly represent commercial vehicle drivers, forklift operators and other employees who have suffered an injury and been left unable to work. Recently, our client was awarded a five-figure damages award following an accident involving a forklift at his factory.
What is the most common type of forklift accident?
Forklift accidents can happen in many ways. The most common types of forklift accidents include:
- Crashes and collisions with both objects and people
- Forklift rolling as a result of imbalanced loads or improper work surfaces
- Falling objects hurting people, either from improperly secured loads or poor wracking
- Accidents as a result of dangerous driving or driving at speed
How common are forklift accidents?
Sadly, the worst forklift accidents result in an average of five people a day being taken to hospital suffering from life-changing injuries.
According to data released in 2020, over five years, 19% of fatal injuries occurred when a worker was struck by a moving vehicle. A further 8% happened when an employee was struck by moving machinery. This means that forklift deaths are still a prevalent issue in the workplace, particularly in the construction and storage industries.
Should I receive specific forklift training to prevent an accident?
There is a common misconception that you need to have a forklift licence to be able to operate a forklift. However, forklift drivers simply need to be over the minimum school leaving age (or 18 years old at ports) and to have had appropriate training.
Under The Health and Safety at Work Act, employers are obliged to provide information, instruction, training, and supervision to ensure the health and safety of their employees. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations also require all employers to ensure that people who use work equipment have received appropriate training for the purposes of health and safety.
Employers should therefore provide forklift operators with the appropriate training and provide refresher courses. Refresher courses should be offered where operators:
- Have not used trucks for some time
- Are occasional users
- Appear to have developed unsafe working practices
- Have had an accident or near-miss or
- If there is a change in their working practices or environment.
Training should be delivered by an accredited body which include the Road Transport Industry Training Board (RTITB), the Independent Training Standards Scheme and Register (ITSSAR), or the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).
Should risk assessments be carried out to prevent forklift accidents?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) stipulates there must be adequate segregation of forklift trucks and pedestrians within the workplace. A risk assessment must be carried out where frequent movements take place to ensure the safety of all personnel within the workplace.
Planning of traffic routes should ensure that vehicles and pedestrians are kept separate, preferably by physical barriers, but floor markings, signage, and training are also important. Visibility, especially around crossing points should be ensured.
Where pedestrians and vehicles necessarily operate in the same area at the same time special controls are required. Barrier systems should be sufficiently robust for the application and should be installed with deflection zones that do not impinge on walkways.
Where barriers are not practical, other means of ensuring safe movement of pedestrians and vehicles must be considered. This includes clear demarcation of traffic routes using paint on the floor, effective signage and other instructions. All measures should be strictly enforced. It is unacceptable to devise systems and then not ensure they are being effective.
How do I report a forklift accident at work?
First, check there is no immediate risk of danger and ensure any injured people receive the appropriate medical assistance required.
Report the incident to a manager or supervisor and make a forklift truck accident report. Record the details in the company’s log or accident book, in accordance with The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases, and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).
If your employer refuses to record your incident, write down the details of what happened and send it to them in a letter or email whilst retaining a copy for yourself.
Your employer may also be required to report the accident to the HSE via their website or telephone service so that an investigation can be carried out if necessary. This applies to all serious or fatal incidents and all accidents where the employee has been absent from work for a period of seven consecutive days.
Am I responsible for the injury at work or my employer?
Your employer has a duty of care to you and must take all reasonable steps possible to protect your health and safety while at work. This includes all spaces or locations where you are required to work as a part of your job.
There are many ways in which an employer can be negligent, resulting in a reach truck crash or forklift accident. Common examples of forklift employment negligence include:
- Inadequate maintenance of forklifts or other equipment
- Poor working practices, such as dangerous processes for loading and unloading forklifts
- Inadequate forklift training for operators or other workers
- Inadequate supervision
- Inappropriate workplace layouts or poorly designated walkways that put both operators and pedestrians at risk
- Obstructions in forklift areas and routes
- Permitting high volumes of forklift traffic at one time
- Pressurising forklift workers under unjust conditions, such as at excessive speed or in stressful environments
At the same time, all employees also have a legal duty to take care of their own safety. Therefore, if you were purposefully risking your safety, such as by messing around with equipment or operating the forklift under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the responsibility may lie with you.
Can I be dismissed after an accident at work?
Under UK employment law, your employer cannot dismiss you solely on the basis of becoming the victim of an accident at work.
If they do sack you after suffering a forklift accident at work, or following an absence from work due to a related injury or illness, you may be able to sue for unfair dismissal. However, prolonged periods off work, even if due to an accident at work, can justify a termination of employment in certain circumstances.
If you bring a claim for compensation against your employer after having a forklift accident at work, they cannot sack you simply for this reason. If they do, and you’ve been employed for more than two years, you may also have a case for unfair dismissal.
Will I get paid after a workplace accident?
If you are injured or ill as a result of a forklift accident at work, you’ll likely need to take time off for treatment or to recover.
Under the terms of your employment contract, you may not be entitled to your full pay during this time. You may only be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) which is currently set at £99.35 for up to 28 weeks.
Depending on your employers’ sick pay policy, they may top this up with additional sickness benefits so you do not end up out of pocket. Unfortunately, however, not all employees will be entitled to this.
If I’m injured at work by a forklift can I recover lost earnings?
In most cases, the answer is yes as an accident or injury you’ve suffered at work should never affect your financial situation.
If you end up out of pocket because of a forklift accident at work, you may be able to claim for loss of earnings by making a compensation claim.
If you received SSP, this will be taken into account before any compensation settlement is awarded.
Am I entitled to claim accident at work compensation?
If your employer did not take appropriate steps to prevent an injury or illness you suffered because of a forklift accident, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Your pain and suffering
- Any long-term consequences
- Loss of earnings, overtime or bonus
- Future losses such as if you have to stop work completely
- Treatment like physiotherapy, chiropractors, and osteopaths
- Psychological or emotional distress
- Supports aids or home adaptations
- Care or assistance fees
Will my employer’s future be affected?
By law, your workplace must have employer’s liability insurance. This is designed to protect them if they are found to have acted negligently or breached regulations.
Usually, an accident at work claim due to the fault of the employer is covered by this policy and, for the most part, the insurer will foot the bill for any compensation settlement not your employer.
Accidents at Work Compensation Claims
If you’ve suffered a workplace accident and you’re unsure about your rights, you should not suffer in silence. Sometimes, there are time limits that apply to the legal process and it’s important to seek expert advice as soon as possible.
Here at Hudgell Solicitors, we can provide a free initial consultation to help you decide if legal action is the right course of action to take, based on the strength of your case. We have a proven track record for helping bereaved families and people who have suffered serious or life-changing injuries.
Our main priority is to get your life back on track by helping you access any specialist rehabilitation or medical care, but we will also fight hard to recover the maximum compensation.
Should you wish to find out more about this proactive approach, please get in touch. We’ll be happy to help.