Forklift with ‘makeshift brake’ rolls and kills 18-year-old Arkansas worker, feds say

An 18 year old the worker parked the forklift he had operated at an Arkansas construction site, then accidentally dropped the key, according to federal authorities.

While searching for the fallen key in Rison, officials said the forklift rolled over and struck the unattended man, killing him.

After his death in July 2022, the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration launched an investigation into Hixson Lumber Company LLC.

“Investigators have determined that the forklift’s original parking brake was removed and replaced with a makeshift brake that did not hold the machine in place,” according to a Jan. 23 news release.

OSHA cited the lumber company — based in Carrollton, Texas, with about 750 workers in eight states — for one willful violation and four serious violations, authorities said.

An employee with Hixson Lumber Company told McClatchy News the company isn’t commenting on the quotes “because it’s an open and ongoing matter.”

Federal investigators said the company failed to properly train the 18-year-old employee and left the keys in unsecured forklifts. Hixson Lumber Company also failed to ensure that the forklift used by the worker was equipped with a parking brake, horn and back-up alarm, the statement said.

The worker was not certified to operate the forklift, officials said, and was unsupervised as he was responsible for pulling and counting wood.

“A family, friends and co-workers must mourn a young man whose life was cut short because his employer failed to meet safety requirements that would have prevented this tragedy,” said OSHA Regional Director, Kia McCullough, in the press release. “Hixson Lumber Company failed to fulfill its legal responsibility to ensure hazardous equipment was maintained and that only trained and certified workers are permitted to operate forklifts.”

OSHA offered the company to pay $218,759 in penalties.

Hixson Lumber Company has 15 business days from the time it becomes aware of the citations to comply, request a meeting with the Regional Manager, or dispute the findings.

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