Warehouses in New Jersey are often dangerous places for workers. When not operated with due care, forklifts can go from being essential to fatal in a matter of seconds. The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 270,000 transportation-related injuries occurred in warehouses across the United States in 2017 — many of which involved forklifts. During the same year, 819 workers died in warehouses, a 5.3 percent increase from 2016.
More than 25 percent of all warehouse accident involving forklifts occur at loading docks, and for every incident, there are 600 near misses. Fall-throughs are cited as the most common accidents involving forklifts and loading docks, according to EHS Today.
What are fall-through accidents?
Fall-through accidents occur when a forklift falls off a dock after a cargo trailer rolls away or becomes separated. This is usually caused by the weight and momentum of a forklift entering the ramp of an unsecured trailer. In other cases, fall-through accidents can occur when a truck driver prematurely pulls away from a dock while a forklift operator is in the process of loading inventory.
Fall-throughs can happen with little time to take evasive action. Some forklift operators are fortunate enough to escape. Those who don't often sustain severe or fatal injuries.
What can be done to protect forklift operators at docks?
According to EHS Today, wheel chocks are the most commonly used method for securing trailers, but they aren't always effective in preventing fall-through accidents for the following reasons:
- Many warehouses fail to use them, even if they have them.
- They can be ineffective during wet or icy conditions.
- They can be ineffective once they are worn out.
- Truck drivers can roll right over them when prematurely pulling away from a dock.
Instead of wheel chocks, EHS Today suggests using vehicle restraint systems. What this does is provide adequate communication between dockworkers and truck drivers by utilizing interior and exterior lights. The lights are meant to alert forklift operators when it is safe to begin loading inventory onto a trailer. They also alert truck drivers when it is safe to depart from a dock.
Warehouse employers should not only invest in a vehicle restraint system to protect workers, but also to reap the financial benefits. A warehouse injury involving a forklift operator could cost employers around $189,000. Installing a vehicle restraint system would save money in the long run. Unfortunately, some warehouse employers would rather take the risk of workers getting injured than make the investment.
What to do if you've been injured on the job
If you're a dockworker who was injured on the job, your condition could be serious enough to put you out of work for months. During this time, you may be wondering how you will afford to pay your medical bills and living expenses while you're unable to collect a paycheck. Luckily, you are eligible for workers' compensation benefits, which would pay for both. The process of pursuing a claim, however, can be complex and confusing.
That's where the attorneys at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC come in. We know how the workers' compensation system in New Jersey works. Our knowledgeable and experienced legal team can help make the process easier. Contact us online today to learn more.