Despite that it may seem as if anyone can operate a forklift truck, it is an inherently high-risk operation, including on ships. In The Nautical Institute’s latest Mars Report, a crew member lost his life in a forklift accident when the vehicle fell from a car deck.

The Nautical Institute gathers reports of maritime accidents and near-misses. It then publishes these so-called Mars Reports (anonymously) to prevent other accidents from happening. A summary of this incident:

A roro vessel was making a routine planned stopover and the bosun was using the forklift truck for a routine job of moving tools and small containers. Later that same day, several other deck crew members also used the forklift for various tasks.

Later on, while most crew were at coffee break, a loud bang was heard. Various crew members went towards car deck 2 to identify the source of the sound. The securing barrier on car deck 3 was found broken, and the forklift had fallen from car deck 3 onto car deck 2. The forklift was lying overturned on the ramp with a crew member inside the forklift cabin.

This crew member was injured, but responsive. Another crew member was found inside the overturned forklift basket and he was unresponsive. Crew members began first aid. An ambulance arrived and the paramedics attended the unresponsive victim. He was transported to hospital, but later declared deceased.

forklift accident

Investigation findings

The crew member that was in the forklift cabin later recovered, but he did not remember events from the accident. The company investigation found that the forklift had been operated with the victim in the basket and the forklift mast extended to the top. It was also found that the crew member operating the forklift truck did not have the training or authorisation to operate the truck.

There was no dedicated procedure in the company’s SMS providing requirements for the access and operation of the forklift. Neither was there any specific procedure for maintaining, recording or managing crew members’ qualification and experience for operating a forklift truck.

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Advice from The Nautical Institute

  • Operators of forklift trucks should have proper training and follow procedures. According to the website, on average, 95 people are seriously injured in a forklift accident every day and one person is killed in a forklift accident every four days in the United States alone (land-based use).
  • Effective administrative and access controls must be maintained to ensure that only authorised and trained personnel can operate such equipment.

Mars Reports

This accident was covered in the Mars Reports, originally published as Mars 202161, that are part of Report Number 350. A selection of this Report was also published in SWZ|Maritime’s January 2022 issue. The Nautical Institute compiles these reports to help prevent maritime accidents. That is why they are also published on SWZ|Maritime’s website.

More reports are needed to keep the scheme interesting and informative. All reports are read only by the Mars coordinator and are treated in the strictest confidence. To submit a report, please use the Mars report form.

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