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Hazard Alert Bulletin

Forklift Truck Fatalities

May 1998

The New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is alerting employers and employees about the hazards of operating or working near industrial forklift trucks.

Since 1992, the NJDOH Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Project has received reports of 22 fatal incidents involving forklift trucks in New Jersey. The FACE project has investigated eight of these incidents:

Case #1:
In July 1997, a forklift operator at a trucking company was killed when he was crushed between the lift's roll cage and a metal beam in a trailer. The victim was reaching out of the forklift when he inadvertently activated a control lever which moved the lift into the beam.

Case #2: In October 1996, a laborer at a stone fabrication shop was crushed under four 700 pound slabs of granite dislodged from a storage rack. The victim was guiding a slab to the rack when the forklift pushed the stone slabs onto him.

Case #3:
In August 1996, a masonry worker was run over by a rough terrain forklift at a construction site. The victim was crossing a construction lane to a coffee truck and apparently did not hear the forklift's backup warning alarm.

Case #4:
In August 1996, a meatpacking plant supervisor died after slipping and failing 9 feet from the forks of a forklift truck. The supervisor had asked the operator to raise him on the forks so he could get some product samples from a storage rack.

Case #5:
In May 1996, a warehouse worker was killed after falling 9 feet from an order-picker forklift truck platform. The worker was standing on the loaded platform as it was being raised to a warehouse rack.

Case #6:
In April 1996, a warehouse worker was crushed under a 4,000 pound crate that fell from a forklift. The victim was spotting the unsecured crate that fell when the forklift passed over an uneven docking plate.

Case #7:
In December 1994, a textile supervisor was fatally injured when his forklift was struck and overturned by a second forklift falling off a loading dock. The forklift had been improperly positioned near the edge of the loading dock to lift pipes to the roof.

Case #8:
In March 1994, a warehouse worker was killed after failing from a pallet set on the forks of a forklift. The victim was standing on the raised pallet to remove a box from a warehouse rack and fell 12 feet to the floor.

The 14 other reported fatalities included five workers who were killed when pinned between a forklift and an another object, four who died in overturned forklifts and two who were struck by moving forklifts. One worker died when a forklift struck a wall which collapsed on her, one was crushed under a crate when the securing straps broke, and one who fell while riding on the forks.


  1. Employers should develop a written safety program for the use of forklift trucks.

  2. Only fully trained and authorized workers should be permitted to operate forklift trucks.

  3. Forklifts should be regularly inspected and maintained to ensure that operating controls and safety devices are in good working order.

  4. Forklifts should be equipped with backup alarms and flashing lights to warn pedestrians.

  5. Workers should only be lifted with a properly designed forklift personnel cage.

  6. Forklift loads must be properly positioned and secured prior to lifting and moving.

  7. Forklift operators should always wear safety belts.

For more information on the safe operation of forklift trucks, call or write to:
New Jersey Department of Health
FACE Project
PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
(609) 984-1863
Federal OSHA Offices in
New Jersey

Parsippany - (973) 263-1003
Avenel - (732) 750-3270
Marlton - (609) 757-5181
Hasbrouck Heights - (201) 288-1700

Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation Project
The New Jersey Department of Health, in conjunction with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, is currently conducting a research study of work-related fatal injuries. This project, known as FACE (Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation), seeks to identify the factors that contribute to fatal falls and machine related fatalities. The FACE study will help in the development and use of improved safety measures for preventing fatal injuries in the future. We hope you find this informative and that you will share it with others. If you have any comments or questions, please call the FACE Project at (609) 984-1863.

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