No injuries after forklift incident: Why was firm still fined $52K?

There was no injury or property damage after a forklift incident at this company. Yet it still led to an OSHA inspection and a sizable fine. What did the company do wrong?

Here’s what happened:

Earlier this year, there was a near miss safety incident involving a forklift at Exel Inc.’s facility in Toledo, OH. Exel Inc. is a supply chain management and logistics company, and their Toledo facility stores and distributes auto parts.

There were no injuries reported after the forklift incident. But OSHA received complaints about the near miss, and so it inspected the company.

OSHA discovered that after the forklift near miss, the company didn’t provide refresher training to the forklift driver.

Exel had been fined in 2013 for the same reason at a Shelby, OH facility, so OSHA slapped the company with a repeat violation.

OSHA also found other serious forklift violations at the Toledo facility, including failure to:

  • remove a defective forklift from service, and
  • prevent workers from leaving unattended forklifts in an unsafe condition.

In the end, the company was fined $52,500.

Here’s what Kim Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Toledo, had to say:

“When incidents occur involving forklifts and other powered industrial vehicles, refresher training must occur, and Exel failed to provide it.”

OSHA’s definition of a near miss

So how can you prevent an OSHA fine like this one at your plant?

First, let’s go over OSHA’s forklift training requirements.

OSHA says all workers must be trained and certified before using a forklift. The training must consist of a combination of:

  • formal instruction (lectures, written material, discussions, videos, etc.)
  • practical training (demonstrations by a trainer and exercises performed by a trainee), and
  • evaluation of a forklift driver’s performance in the workplace.

After that, OSHA requires forklift drivers be evaluated on their performance at least once every three years. Refresher training is required when:

  • you observe the worker operating the forklift in an unsafe manner
  • the forklift driver is involved in an accident or near miss incident
  • an evaluation of the driver reveals he or she isn’t operating the forklift safely
  • the driver is assigned to drive a different type of powered industrial vehicle, or
  • the workplace layout changes in a way that would affect safe operation of the forklift.

But what constitutes a near-miss incident? Here’s how OSHA defines it:

“Near misses describe incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.”

Tip: Settle on a definition of a near miss incident at your company, using OSHA’s guidance, and set up a near miss reporting system. It can help you prevent accidents at your plant and – as this case shows – also reduce the chances of an OSHA fine.

What do you think of OSHA’s fine against this company? Do you investigate near miss incidents at your plant? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  1. Christine Johnson says

    My husband was involved in what his company called a near miss but he went round the man and he was coming from a blind corner and the company dont use mirrors in the corners of the warehouse. The place he drives is used by pedestrians as well and they don’t wear hi viz clothing. They are saying he could lose his job. Recently they have been moved from a place where it was not too busy traffic to a place where there is too many people and no walkways and driveways for stacker trucks. I find this unbelievable but he will be answering the diisciplinary and he has all this evidence. Should he be punished to the end degree. It has made him ill. This seems to me like victimisation.

  2. Pamila Wiersma says

    Invaluable comments – I loved the facts ! Does someone know if my assistant might be able to get a sample IRS 8888 copy to type on ?

  3. Gilbert R. Gallego says

    What canI do, when my employer doesn’t tell me that I was exposed to disturbed asbestos. And a vendor cleaned up the asbestos with out proper PPE.

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