Safety Issues


Salesman killed when forklift falls off truck loading ramp

A flatbed truck with a new forklift was backed up to the loading dock, the parking brake set, and the transmission placed in neutral. The salesman climbed to the truck bed to assist the driver in unloading the forklift. As the truck driver went to store the binding chains that were just removed, the salesman backed the forklift onto the dock plate. The truck rolled an estimated 15 feet. The dock plate slipped off the truck bed and the forklift fell four feet to the ground. The salesman fell off the forklift onto the concrete, was crushed between the forks and the loading dock and died two days later.

The driver worked for a towing company for two years.  The towing company was contracted by a material handling firm to make forklift deliveries and regularly used the towing company several times a week.  The driver was not one of the usual drivers but regularly drove the truck involved in the incident a few times a week.  


The truck was backed up on the flat concrete surface to the loading dock, the parking brake set, and the transmission placed in neutral.  However, the truck wheels were not blocked against motion.  The salesman climbed onto the truck bed and operated the forklift to relax the tension on the winch line, while the driver engaged the winch at the back of the truck to slacken and remove the tie downs and bindings. As the truck driver went to store the binding chains, the salesman backed the forklift and accelerated to go up the incline to the loading dock.  The truck rolled an estimated 15 feet and the dock plate separated from the truck bed.   The driver felt the movement and turned to yell “Stop”; but by then the forklift was already falling off the back of the truck.


The truck bed was nine inches below the loading dock.  The hinged dock plate lowered onto the bed of the truck extended out only 15 inches, so when in place, it sloped down to the truck bed at an angle of roughly 37 degrees.  The back frame of the forklift had a clearance of only four inches and could clear a slope of 44 degrees.  The weight (9400 pounds) of the forklift moving toward the rear of the truck bed, behind the rear axle, lowered the bed further and increased the angle of the steel dock plate. The drive wheels on the front of the forklift were still on the truck bed.  During acceleration the resistance against the forklift caused the drive wheels to push the truck away from the loading dock.

  • Before loading or unloading operations, completely block the truck and trailer against motion.  Do not depend solely on a parking brake to prevent vehicle movement.  Additionally, the weight of the forklift required special precautions that may have 
  • Employers must train operators in safe operating procedures and hazards associated with particular operations, such as loading and unloading from transport vehicles.
  • Workers need to clearly communicate with coworkers when working together on or near moving machinery.  Communication is particularly important if the coworker is not visible or has attention directed elsewhere.  Better communication in this incident may have allowed the two workers to coordinate their activities and possibly prevent the unexpected vehicle movement.  Clear communication is particularly important with a new partner or team member, or when workers from different companies work together on a task.

Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences

Oregon Health & Science University

3181 SW Jackson Park Rd, L606

Portland, OR  97239-9878

Safety Issues is presented by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in partnership with the National Truckers Association (NTA), with major contributions from State partners funded by NIOSH through the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program.  The goal of the FACE Program is to prevent occupational fatalities across the nation by identifying and investigating work situations at high risk for injury and then developing and disseminating prevention strategies to those who can intervene in the workplace. State partners who contribute Safety Issues postings based on recent investigative reports are California, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, New Jersey, and Washington.

This month’s Safety Issues is based on an investigative report from the Oregon FACE Program. The complete detailed Oregon FACE INVESTIGATION REPORT:  #OR 2007-11-1 includes additional case information, recommendations and discussion. This report can be found at  Additional OR-FACE Investigation Reports, Annual Reports, Hazard Alerts and other publications can be accessed through Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at

The Safety Issues and Investigation Reports which are the products of NIOSH Cooperative State partners are presented here in their original unedited form from the states. They are intended for educational purposes only. The findings and conclusions in each report are those of the individual Cooperative State partner and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the NIOSH.