Seat belt could have saved man who died in a forklift crash in Mississauga, inquest hears

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Published April 11, 2023 at 4:32 pm

Anthony Urciuoli/hamilton.insauga.com photo

A seatbelt likely would have saved David Miskie who died while operating a forklift in Mississauga.

The inquest into Miskie’s death was held today (April 11). The purpose of a coroner’s inquest is to inquire into how a person died, when and where they died and provide recommendations to help prevent future deaths.

Miskie died at the age of 56 on Dec. 5, 2017, of injuries sustained while working at a construction site on Pine Street North in Port Credit.

He was survived by seven siblings 13 nieces and nephews and five great nieces and nephews with one more on the way, said Kim Motyl, inquest counsel, while reading the statement of facts. Miskie lost the love of his life in a tragic car accident shortly after high school and resigned himself to a life as a bachelor, never married, but always focused on his extended family.

“He was a father figure to many and deeply respected and beloved by all,” said Motyl.

On Dec. 5, Miskie was working for Ron Little Trucking, and tasked with transporting a load of lumber to the construction site, a home renovation project on Pine Street North.

Miskie had worked for Ron Little Trucking for about two or three years, according to the statement of facts. He drove specialized vehicles including a freight truck that could also carry a Moffett forklift.

On that day, he was delivering two loads of lumber to two different projects on Pine Avenue. He delivered the first load without issues but in the second delivery, the load was both raised and extended away from the forklift.

“This precariously shifts the centre of gravity and makes the machine unstable in operation,” said Motyl in reading the statement of facts.

The gates to the property were wide enough for the delivery, and those on scene were able to retract and lower the forks on the forklift confirming there wasn’t a mechanical issue.

Miskie was a safe and cautious person and had nearly 30 years of forklift experience and experience loading and offloading product and equipment for delivery. It is believed this incident was “a momentary lapse in judgment.”

No one saw the accident but a worker nearby heard a loud crash. When they rushed over, they saw Miskie draped over the steering wheel. Emergency crews arrived but, unfortunately, they were unable to save Miskie.

The coroner determined the cause of death was a blunt impact head and neck injury. These types of injuries are frequently seen from impact with the roof of a car during a motor vehicle collision.

Miskie was not wearing his seat belt. The belt was wrapped around the back of his seat and fastened in that position.

“Examination of it revealed that it had been fastened in that position for a considerable amount of time as a seatbelt was seized and it was rusty.”

Other specialized drivers with Ron Little Trucking said this was the way they had always operated the forklift for expediency’s sake, as they were on and off the machine multiple times during the delivery.

It was fastened to override the safety interlock that prevented the forklift from starting if the seatbelt was not engaged. Little told employees not to use the forklift in that way, but he was aware that they were not following his instructions. There was no disciplinary action against any employees as a result of this issue, according to the statement of facts.

Laws require employers to keep machinery safe and keep safety equipment in working order.

“Sadly, if those laws had been followed, had that seatbelt been working and had Mr. Miskie chosen to use it, he likely would have been alive today,” said Motyl in her opening remarks.

In a different, earlier proceeding, Little was charged and pleaded guilty to failing to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

After considering the evidence, the jury made the following recommendations:

The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development should continue to work with partners to create educational materials that highlight the dangers associated with forklift work, and the risks of operating a forklift.

The Ministry should make regular inspectors to ensure Ron Little Trucking complies with safety measures – including creating a safety plan, reviewing the plan with employees, ensuring the forklift seatbelt haven’t been tampered with and are operational, keeping records of safety inspections and training, mandate the use of seat belts, select a health and safety representative, and make sure employees are trained how to safely use a forklift.

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