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Enforcing workplace safety for forklift operators

Texas employees who have to operate a vehicle for their job should know that workplace safety also extends to the vehicles That they use. This is exemplified in a case involving a Nevada-based shipping company who compelled workers to operate forklifts that were unsafe.

After undergoing a form of breakdown maintenance, the forklifts would be put back into operation without having known safety issues resolved. This included horns and lights that did not function, deficient brakes, leaking fluids and additional safety issues. Both the forklift drivers and pedestrians were placed at significant risks, as the forklifts carried heavy cargo and had limited visibility when used on loading docks that were sometimes wet or icy.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified the same violations regarding the forklifts at additional shipping terminals over a period of years. Due to the prevalence of the violations, the agency decided to establish protocols at all of the shipping terminals under its jurisdiction.

In the case of the Nevada company, an abatement of the forklift hazards was sought at each of its locations at which the hazards were present. After protracted litigation, a settlement was reached that required the company to remove all powered industrial trucks that were defective, unsafe or damage from service at all of its locations. The company was also required to hire an independent monitor to help revamp its policies regarding forklifts.

According to statistics, forklift accidents result in approximately 34,900 injuries and 85 deaths every year. Most of the incidents are preventable. However, not all employers act as the law requires to ensure that their employees are safe. Even though most employees who are injured in workplace accidents are eligible to file claims for workers' compensation benefits, when a company recklessly disregards federal or state safety regulations, it could be held financially responsible for a victim's losses in some situations. An attorney who has experience with these types of matters could determine whether a lawsuit against such a company could proceed.

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