Jon Pina, MS, CSP ::::
Case Synopsis: Newly hired forklift operator at steel mill, age 19, was fatally injured when a Euclid R25 off-road rear dump truck backed into him as he drove an industrial forklift. He was crushed from the weight of his 5,000 pound forklift as it was struck and overturned by the dump truck. He was assigned, without training or certification, to operate a forklift to transfer loaded pallets from building to building and did not have his seatbelt secured. The defendant, driver of the Euclid dump truck, owned by a contractor, noticed he felt “something” as he struck the driven forklift while backing up. Upon alighting from his truck he found the overturned 5,000 pound forklift, he had struck, lying on top of the victim.
Expert Analysis: Although there were citations issued by OSHA’s required investigation, the steel mill was protected from suit since it was the employer. The defendants were the truck driver and his company in that the truck driver failed to (1) assure that there was no one in the path of his dump truck when he placed it in reverse gear; (2) failed to properly assess the hazard of blindly backing up with a “blind spot” directly behind the truck bed, and (3) failed to comply with written procedures as outlined in the Euclid Operator Handbook which provides guidelines for loading and dumping trucks. Since these trucks are so large, rear visibility is a problem. The truck driver testified he had a wide angle mirror on the right side of his truck, a full length mirror on the left side, and he kept the mirrors clean. Although he testified he had a “clear view of everything” he never saw the forklift as he traveled five feet at 3 miles/hour before striking him.
Conclusion: Expert concluded the truck driver and his company failed to perform their job in a safe manner by backing up their large trucks with a blind spot, while knowing that forklifts were traversing the area, and no spotter available to safely direct them. Since the trucks traveled so slowly the truck driver and his company failed to assess the common hazard of a struck-by accident potential. Although OSHA cited the steel mill for failing to train/certify the forklift operator and enforce the use of seatbelts, the case settled prior to trial.