Safety Issues


Truck Driver Killed when Struck-by Beams Falling from Forklift

Ken, a 34-year-old licensed commercial truck driver, had worked for a wood product facility for over five years. His job duties included assisting loading and delivering company products to customer sites with a flatbed trailer. Ray was a forklift operator who loaded products onto the trailers.


The Loading Procedure
The flat-bed trailer was 8 feet 6 inches wide and 48 feet long. Loading procedures called for 2” x 4” boards to be placed between units and orders as spacers to separate orders and units.  This allowed a forklift operator to insert the forks to pick a unit straight up or place it straight down without having to tip the mast to slide the load.


The Incident
Ken’s trailer was loaded for a delivery when he arrived at the lumberyard in the morning of the incident. Another order came in later and had to be loaded. The order was for four laminated veneer beams, each 34 feet long, 12 inches wide, and 1¾ inches thick. The four beams were banded into one unit that weighed about 750 pounds. Ray picked up the unit with his forklift and drove it to the side of the trailer to place the unit on top of the loaded trailer. Spacers were not placed since the unit was going to the same customer as the rest of the load.

The height of the trailer with the loaded beams was about 10 feet. Ken was standing on top of the trailer in front of the moving unit guiding Ray. Due to its weight and length, the unit sagged and both ends drooped about two feet below the middle section that was resting on the forks. The unit had to be lifted approximately 13 feet up and moved four feet horizontally to be placed in the middle of the trailer. Because there were no spacers, the forklift operator had to tip the mast and slide the unit into position. When Ray began tipping the forklift mast, one end of the unit slid off the forks hitting the beams in the trailer. The impact caused the unit to bounce and swing rapidly toward Ken. Ken was struck and crushed by the load, which caused him to fall off the trailer. He died instantly.



After motor vehicle related incidents, the next major causes of deaths and serious injuries for truckers are struck-by or fall incidents during loading/unloading operations.

    • Implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) for loading/unloading operations and ensure all workers strictly follow the SOPs.
    • Review proper positioning and load securing methods taking into account shape and size as well as weight as they all affect how the load should be transported.
    • Always use spacers to avoid forklift tipping and sliding loads.
    • Stay clear of the loading/unloading zone. Spotters should never stand under, in front of, or near a moving load.
    • Provide training and annual refresher training to all workers who work in loading/unloading operations. 


New York State Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (NY FACE)
Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention
New York State Department of Health
Corning Tower, Room 1336
Empire State Plaza
Albany, NY 12237
Ph (518) 402-7900 Fax (518) 402-7909

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, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Washington.

This month’s Safety Issues is based on an investigative report from the New York State FACE Program. The complete report “Truck Driver Killed when Struck by Laminated Veneer Beams

Falling from a Forklift” (Case Report 02NY027) including detailed case information, recommendations and discussion is available at Additional NY FACE Investigation Reports, Annual Reports, Hazard Alerts and other publications can be accessed 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.