While we often talk on this blog about the reductions in the number of accidents which have resulted from better design, regulations and safety training, we realize that all of that is meaningless to the family and friends of those individuals who are killed or seriously injured in an industrial accident. One of those tragic accidents occurred recently in Granite City, Illinois when a forklift operator at Kraft Food was killed when he got pinned between an unmanned, automated vehicle and a metal racking unit. The unmanned lift was used to lift and haul pallets of product. As is typical in these events, OSHA will investigate and make recommendations to avoid future injuries. That of course will do nothing to bring this individual back to his loved ones. Perhaps his death will help save the lives of others in the future.
There are an estimated 85 such forklift related fatalities per year according to OSHA. Additionally, almost 62,000 forklift injuries occur annually, with 35,000 of those consider to be serious injuries. Roughly 25% of those accidents involve circumstances similar to the recent Granite City tragedy – with an individual pinned between the forklift and a surface. These types of accidents need to be reduced. Particular attention in this case needs to be focused on the fact that the vehicle was an unmanned, automated forklift. The rapid development of technological systems allows manufacturers to create more efficient equipment. It does not necessarily result in safer equipment. This is exactly the role that the personal injury attorney plays in our society – to serve as a watchdog and enforcer, making sure that efficiency does not come before the safety of individual workers.
The loss of this individual’s life is tragic. If the industry can’t learn from this, and use the lessons from this loss to prevent these types of accidents in the future, well that would be more tragic still. Hopefully OSHA will correctly determine all the contributing factors, and if necessary, our legal system will help make sure they don’t happen again.