Skip to main content

Management lessons learned from lifting equipment prosecutions


Preventable incidents involving lift trucks continue to take a heavy toll on workers and employers in Ontario each year. The headlines say it all: workers suffer permanent injuries or death and employers face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. We asked WSPS Warehouse and Racking Specialist Chuck Leon what employers can learn about managing lift truck safety from four recent incidents. Here’s what he had to say.

Snapshot of incidents 

  1. $53,000 fine: Two employees hopped on a forklift to complete a task on the other side of their building. One drove and the other stood on the forks, obstructing the driver’s view. Neither had received forklift training or had authorization to operate one. The truck drove into a steel column and the worker on the forks suffered a permanent injury.
    How the incident could have been prevented: “The forklift should have been safe-parked with the keys removed,” says Chuck. “Also, the driver should not have used the forklift as a taxi service.”

  2. $75,000 fine: A reach truck operator making a left turn lost control on a watery floor and struck a wall. The worker suffered a permanent injury.
    How the incident could have been prevented: “The workplace floor should have been kept clear of water, and the driver should not have driven through water. The truck wouldn’t have been able to stop until it hit something.”

  3. $85,000 fine: A forklift operator loaded two skids of drums on the forklift, which obstructed his view. The operator drove forward and stuck another forklift operator who was standing nearby and occupied with paperwork. The second operator suffered a permanent injury.
    How the incident could have been prevented: “When a driver’s view is obstructed, it’s standard to have a spotter or to drive backward instead. This didn’t happen. In addition, the second driver should not have been standing reading in that area.”

  4. $313,000 fine: A crane operator told a supervisor the crane was a danger, who said to shut it down. However, the crane remained in operation and tipped over while hoisting a load of aluminum joists, fatally crushing a worker.
    How the incident could have been prevented: ”Why wasn’t the crane shut down? Who was responsible for doing that? Why was the crane allowed to be in such a state of disrepair that it posed a danger to workers?”

Common threads

“All of these incidents speak to big gaps in each company’s lift truck safety program,” says Chuck. “The workers were not properly trained, safe procedures were not followed, enforcement was lax, communication was poor and/or best practices for lift truck safety were not followed.”

Chuck recommends employers take a managed systems approach (e.g., CSA Standard Z1000) to cover off all factors affecting lift truck safety, including:

  • training 
  • maintenance and installation
  • inspections and Pre-Start Health and Safety Reviews
  • housekeeping 
  • traffic flow and pedestrian safety 
  • loading dock safety 

“With a management system approach, these incidents may never have happened,” says Chuck.

Also, train operators to the CSA Standard B335-15 for lift trucks, says Chuck. There are four parts to training: theory (classroom), knowledge verification (a practical test), hands-on training with an experienced operator and skills evaluation. “It's important that all four levels of training are covered off, to ensure the instruction is understood and absorbed,” notes Chuck. Separate training is required for each type of equipment. 

How WSPS can help