Fatal Facts: Forklift Crushes Operator Working Underneath


A 47-year-old co-owner of a recycling business was run over and killed by a Gradall telescopic boom lift (rough-terrain forklift) while he was working underneath it.

On the day of the incident, the contractor and an employee were using the Gradall to move building materials, assisting the concrete crew in the preparation and pouring of concrete. The employee had been using the Gradall in the morning to move building materials all around the project. In the afternoon, the contractor was using the Gradall to assist the concrete crew by placing and removing the concrete finishing equipment on the poured concrete.

After moving concrete equipment with the Gradall, the contractor shut off the machine to go to his personal vehicle. Upon returning, the Gradall failed to start. When he shut it down, he had left the shift levers in the forward position and in second gear. The two levers must be placed in neutral before the starter will work using the ignition switch. When the contractor attempted to start the Gradall, it did not start. He exited the operator’s seat again to check the batteries, and evidently left the key in the on position and failed to set the parking brake.

After checking the batteries, the contractor retrieved a screwdriver from his vehicle and returned to crawl under the Gradall cab area. He reached up into the motor compartment with the screwdriver and the tool made contact between the terminals on the starter. The contact effectively jump-started the engine and bypassed the safety mechanism that prevented ignition while in gear. Electrical burn marks found on the screwdriver after the incident correspond to the distance between the starter terminals, which also showed burn marks.

The Gradall started and moved immediately forward. The back left tire rolled up over the contractor. The Gradall traveled about 20 feet farther before being stopped by a cement slab. A coworker got into the cab of the Gradall and applied the foot brake, but this did not stop the machine. He turned off the key in the ignition, which stopped the engine. The victim was dead at the scene.

CAUSE OF DEATH: Severe head injury.


  • Powered industrial forklifts should only be operated by knowledgeable and experienced individuals certified by the employer, with proficiency demonstrated through operator training.
  • Before exiting any powered industrial truck, even briefly, completely shut down power, place controls in neutral and apply parking brake.
  • Do not start equipment by overriding safety features.