Forklift-Free: Dangers of Forklifts and Benefits of Conversion

posted on: Thursday November 29, 2012

Over 94,000 people are injured in forklift accidents every year.  If you Google “forklift accidents,” you can find several videos offering a front-row seat to what some of these accidents look like. One clip that is highlighted in all videos shows shelves full of product crashing to the ground as two forklift operators are buried beneath the ruble.  Several other clips show pallets, shelves, and entire warehouses full of product being destroyed. In every clip, either the forklift operator or someone else’s safety is at risk.

Accidents and Causes
The types of forklift-related incidents can vary as well as severity of injury. Forty-two percent of fatal accidents are a result of the operator being crushed in a tip-over. Manufacturing and construction are the two industries where the most fatalities occur. Other common accidents from forklift operation include:

  • Ejection of the forklift operator
  • Forks piercing, puncturing, or striking a person or object
  • Objects dropped from forklift or falling off of forks
  • Shelves and objects knocked down from forklift
  • Impact of falling product or shelves

Forklift accidents are attributed to a number of factors. While some are operational, others are environmental. Some common reasons for most forklift accidents are:

  • Lack of training of operators
  • Age of equipment or poor maintenance
  • Basic neglect of protocol (improper turning, backing up, communication, etc.)
  • Narrow or cluttered aisles
  • Volume of traffic, including pedestrian
  • Ramps and other surfaces
  • Poorly stacked or piled pallets
  • Loads that are too heavy

While these are easier to eradicate, other factors can be more difficult to predict or prevent, like:

  • Noise and other hearing impairments caused by work factors, like hearing protection
  • Back end swing radius
  • Bad sight lines
  • People being in the wrong place at the wrong time

Of course, the worst-case scenario is one where a person is fatally injured. Fortunately, compared to the number of accidents each year, the fatality rate is relatively low. However, the impact from one accident can be far-reaching. Aside from the health, safety, and recovery of anyone injured, cost can be a major consequence of even a small accident. Costs of reported forklift accidents have included:

  • Damage to property or equipment
  • Product loss and delayed production
  • Overtime and time lost from supervisors and other employees
  • Increases in workers compensation insurance
  • OSHA fines
  • Damaged reputation
  • Lawsuits
  • More

Benefits of Forklift-free
These examples and statistics easily make a case for a forklift-free environment. Many companies who have made the conversion have utilized motorized carts or “tuggers” in place of the forklifts. Here are some of the results those companies have seen from converting:

  • Reduced cost – this is seen in many areas. Both the initial cost of equipment and cost of maintenance of carts/tuggers are far lower than forklifts. The cost of manpower to run the equipment is significantly lower. The cost of damaged product has also decreased with the use of motorized alternatives to forklifts.
  • Better traffic and work flow – the equipment is smaller and easier to maneuver which decreases congestion while increasing visibility.
  •  Greater efficiency – the carts/tuggers can transport more material in fewer trips. Efficiency is one of the reasons one Ford plant cited it converted to forklift-free.
  • Better productivity – not only can more work be done if more material can be moved in one trip, but it is also easier on the employees.

For material handling without forklifts, Load Mover Inc offers the most advanced motorized equipment available. These movers can transport heavier loads than forklifts. They are also easier to operate, safer, and very durable. The basic design fits the needs of many tasks, but load Movers can also be custom-made to fit different trailers, attachments, and loads. They have been used for a variety of purposes with great success. For more information on sound equipment that can replace your forklift, visit