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The hazards of misusing forklifts for lifting people

North Carolina employees who believe there are hazards in their workplaces or that practices in their workplaces violate OSHA standards can contact the agency and make a confidential report. For example, warehouse workers should not use forklifts and pallets to be lifted to high shelves. One worker was killed when he slipped from a pallet being used in this way and fell 7 feet to a concrete floor. The man was hospitalized and later died.

An investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that using the forklift and pallets to lift workers was common in the man's workplace even though it was contrary to the instructions of the forklift manufacturer. According to OSHA, the employer should have prohibited this and provided adequate training for both forklift drivers and people working around the forklift.

OSHA also said that employees should be provided with equipment that would lift them safely and that included fall protection. For example, a personnel platform with a guardrail can be used with a forklift if the manufacturer gives written approval. Another option is a high-lift order picker. This comes with a fall arrest system and lifts the worker alongside the forks.

A worker who is injured on the job is usually eligible for workers' compensation. Workers who become ill because of exposure to hazardous material are generally also eligible. Injured workers may want to talk to an attorney to be sure they understand their rights. Employers may try to intimidate workers who apply for compensation, or workers may think if they were partly at fault in the accident that they are ineligible. An attorney may help an employee file a claim or an appeal.

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