Forklifts: Useful Construction Tools with Dangerous Track Records

March 10, 2023

If you get into the construction industry, you’ll probably become familiar with some of the trade’s most common tools. Those include simple things. You’ll probably use hammers, saws, and other implements you’d also use doing a DIY project at home.

You might also learn about using more complex tools, like the steamroller or forklift. We will talk about forklifts right now. They’re potentially quite useful but also rather dangerous for anyone unqualified or careless.

What is a Forklift?

You might also hear someone call a forklift a jitney or a fork truck. You may hear them call it a fork hoist in some industries. In every case, someone who uses these terms means a small industrial truck.

The person operating it uses it for moving heavy objects over short distances. These little machines aren’t very large, but they’re powerful. They can lift objects and move them around that the average person could never lift on their own, no matter their strength.

Why Do Forklifts Have a Bad Reputation?

2020 saw 78 forklift-related US deaths. If you look at other years, you should see similar numbers. That is because these small trucks can kill or injure someone if they malfunction or run them over.

When someone harms another person while driving a forklift, or when someone hurts themselves, it’s notable that human error usually causes the problem. Forklifts can always malfunction, just like any other tool or vehicle.

More times than not, though, when someone hurts someone else with a forklift, or themselves, they have done something that caused the problem. The machine itself did not do anything wrong.

What Causes Most Forklift Problems?

Many forklift accidents happen because someone operated one who did not have the proper training. Before you ever try operating a forklift, you should make sure you’ve trained on one and read up on its use.

You can train using a forklift with just your teacher there and no one else around. You can also do so in an empty parking lot or some other space without anything close by that you may accidentally hit.

You might also cause a forklift injury if you drink alcohol and then try operating one of these machines. You can easily make a mistake that way.

You might ingest drugs and use a forklift. That’s enough that your boss will probably fire you if they find out about it, but that does not necessarily mean that some people won’t do it if they think they can.

You might also ingest legal drugs, but ones that make you feel dizzy or woozy. Maybe your doctor gives you some pills that help with heart problems or high blood pressure.

If that happens, they might have an adverse effect. This is why you should never operate heavy machinery, like a forklift, without finding out first what a medication does when you ingest it.

Why Else Might You Hurt Someone with a Forklift?

You might harm someone if you operate a forklift and you didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Sleep deprivation can cause a mistake that might seriously hurt someone nearby, or yourself. You should drink some coffee or have a caffeinated soda before you operate a forklift if you know you’re feeling sleepy.

You might try operating a different forklift than you did previously. Not all forklifts have exactly the same designs or controls. While you should see some universalities, you’ll also notice differences.

If you feel that a forklift has too many differences from the ones you’ve operated in the past, you might take some lessons using that one before operating it on your own. You must tell the construction site supervisor or whoever else runs the place that you need more training before you can do the job.

What Can You Do with a Forklift?

Despite these potential problems, if you can learn forklift operation and avoid the issues we’ve mentioned, you might find that you like using one. You can do some serious work with one and complete a job much faster than you otherwise could.

You might load or unload goods. You can load a plane, truck, or ship, or you might unload them instead. You will also use these machines on construction sites. You can move support beams or lumber around.

You can raise, lower, and move containers between different spots. You might also move pallets or boxes that contain smaller parts or products that you’ll then ship.

What Should You Do if a Forklift Harms You?

If you hurt yourself with a forklift, you might collect workers’ compensation if the machine malfunctions. If someone else harms you with a forklift, and you suspect that they ingested alcohol or drugs before they did, you might sue them. If you feel they did not receive the proper training, you might sue the construction company that let that person use the forklift.

In these instances, you can contact and hire a personal injury lawyer. You might find one that takes on construction-related lawsuits.

Your lawsuit might work its way through the court system. It may take weeks or months, but hopefully, you will get the appropriate restitution eventually.

You might also get a settlement offer. The person who operated the forklift or the company that employed them may feel you have an open-and-shut case, and they should pay you rather than letting the case play out. Many times, these lawsuits conclude through a settlement and not a jury’s decision.

Hopefully, if a forklift hurts you, then you can recover eventually. You might work for that same company again, or you may find a different one if you’d prefer that.

Remember that forklifts aren’t usually dangerous unless their operator doesn’t have the required training or they’re not in the right headspace. You might use one for years and enjoy your time lifting and moving objects around. It’s when you or someone else gets careless or negligent that a forklift can become deadly.



I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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