What are the most common, serious forklift accidents?

May 01 2022 | 5 Min. Read Safety

What are the most common, serious forklift accidents and how can you help prevent them? OSHA estimates that more than 85 people are killed in forklift-related incidents, around 34,900 seriously injured and another 61,800 suffer non-serious injuries.

Unfortunately, those numbers have been increasing year after year. In 2021 in Michigan alone, there were 40 reported workplace fatalities investigated by MIOSHA and 74 investigated in 2020. Most recently, as reported in MLIVE, “a steel worker in Dundee, MI was killed in a forklift accident marking the first workplace fatality in Michigan for 2022.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, MIOSHA, issued a notice Friday, Jan. 14 announcing it is investigating a workplace fatality that occurred Jan. 11 in Dundee south of Milan in Monroe County.

The steel worker, a 29-year-old man, was operating an extendable boom forklift to pick up pre-insulated metal panels when he leaned through the cab. The man was then crushed by the lift boom and suffered fatal injuries, officials said.

MIOSHA officials stated the fatality is still under investigation and declined to release the name of the man or the place of business.”

The National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System identified 1,021 workers who died from injuries suffered in forklift-related incidents from 1980 to 1994. The most common types of fatal forklift accidents were:

Common Fatal Forklift Accidents
Type of Incident % Victims
Forklift tip overs 22
Pedestrian struck by forklift 20
Worker crushed by forklift 16
Fall from forklift 9

Forklift accident prevention

Violation: Hitting, running over, or crushing a pedestrian

About 20% of forklift accidents involve a pedestrian, and 36% of forklift-related deaths are workers other than operators. Pedestrians are hit or run over by forklifts. Also, workers who may assume it’s safe to stand beside a forklift are in danger of being crushed should the truck tip over.


  • Make sure all forklift operators are trained and regularly recertified on the equipment they use
  • Train all workers to respect forklifts
  • Post warning signs and apply floor tape to designate forklift zones
  • Use lights and horns to alert pedestrians to the presence of a forklift
  • Install mirrors at intersections to allow drivers and pedestrians to see around corners
  • Use red zone lights to indicate danger areas around a forklift

Violation: Forklift tip overs 

Forklift tip overs are the leading cause of forklift operator fatalities. They can be caused by:

  • Improper turning
  • Unbalanced load
  • Driving with an elevated load
  • Excessive speed
  • Poor surface conditions, like cracks, oil, water, ice


  • Do not operate a forklift unless trained and certified on that forklift.
  • Use seatbelts if they are available. Get them if they are not. Required!
  • Do not jump from an overturning, sit-down type forklift. Stay with the truck, holding on firmly and leaning in the opposite direction of the overturn
  • Exit from a stand-up type of forklift with rear-entry access by stepping backward if a lateral tip over occurs
  • Use extreme caution on grades or ramps
  • On grades, tilt the load back and raise it only as far as needed to clear the road surface
  • Do not raise or lower the forks while the forklift is moving
  • Do not handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift
  • Operate the forklift at a speed that will permit it to be stopped safely
  • Look toward the travel path and keep a clear view of it

Violation: Fall from a forklift

Warehouses are looking for ways to stack inventory higher. Untrained or irresponsible employees may try to reach those higher levels with a boost from a forklift; however, uneven weight distribution will make the truck wobble or even tip over. This causes the worker to slip and fall, resulting in serious injury or death.

Untrained, irresponsible operators have been known to give others a “ride” on the forks or by hanging onto the side.  Again, this dangerously uneven weight distribution can cause a tip over or fall that could injure both operator and passenger.


  • Make sure all forklift operators are trained on the equipment they operate.
  • Do not use, as in NEVER use, a forklift to elevate workers standing on the forks. Use a specially designed elevating platform on the forklift or a MEWP (Mobile Elevated Work Platform).
  • Elevate a worker on an approved platform only when the vehicle is directly below the work area
  • When a forklift is used, secure the elevating platform to the lifting carriage or forks of the forklift
  • Use a restraining means such as rails, chains, or a body belt with a lanyard or a deceleration device for the worker(s) on the platform
  • Do not drive to another location with the work platform elevated
  • Do not allow passengers to ride on forklift trucks unless a seat is provided

Violation: Knocking off a pallet or damaging racking

This type of accident may result in injury or death to operator and anyone else in proximity, and will likely cause significant damage to products, fixtures, and equipment. Picking up, moving, and setting down forklift loads properly and safely requires training.


  • Make sure operators are thoroughly trained and certified.
  • Do not exceed the forklift’s rated lift height. See your machine’s operator’s manual.
  • Proceed with caution
  • Make sure sightlines are clear
  • Do not handle loads that are heavier than the weight capacity of the forklift. See your machine’s operator’s manual.

Training is crucial

It’s not an accident that operator training is listed as a solution for preventing these types of forklift accidents. Operators who are pressured to get a job done too quickly or who become careless can have disastrous impacts on a company.

Operator training and annual recertification is required by OSHA [see OSHA regulation 1910.178(l)]. But beyond getting in trouble with OSHA, it makes good business sense to take forklift operator training seriously. According to a study by OSHA, training improved operator performance 61%.

Accidents take a toll on a company. There’s the trauma of an injury or death, reduced worker morale, and damage to the company’s reputation, not to mention fines, insurance claims, lawsuits, and reduced productivity.

Trust TrainMOR to provide effective forklift operator training

When it comes to training operators on forklift and MEWP operation and safety, rely on TrainMOR. Contact us for information on our Mobile, Memorable, and Measurable training courses—available online, in classroom and on-site.

Related Articles:

Forklift Safety for Pedestrians

Lower Your Risk

Stabilizing the Load


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