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Forklift Accident Kills Port Worker in Portsmouth, VA

APM Terminals in Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), saw its seventh on-the-job fatality in the past six years on March 28, 2011, when a forklift driver drove over a stevedore. The accident took the life of 38-year-old Ceres Marine Terminals employee Paula Bellamy. She was struck by containers being carried on the fork while she was guiding opertions of a crane from ground level.

The Daily Press reported the cause of the accident this way:
The driver's vision was obstructed by the bins carried on the front of his vehicle, according to police. According to marine terminal regulations published by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, forklift drivers are supposed to travel in reverse if the load their vehicle is carrying obstructs the forward view.

Investigators questioned but have not charged the forklift driver.

Managers at the largest commercial freight port in Virginia have pledged to use any findings of deficiencies in the training, supervision or performance of employees to improve safety. In a somewhat morbidly ironic commentary on that promise, APM's homepage already features a digital road sign claiming "Safety is Job #1."

Stricter rules to protect workers' lives and health could be one the few positive results from this latest tragic workplace death. Those rules will only prove effective, however, if upper-level managers, foremen and employees in all jobs and at all levels follow them. No regulation can overcome negligence.

Having represented many railroad workers injured in on-the-job accidents, either through the fault of another person or due to defective equipment, I know well how dangerous working in places like shipyards where hundreds of large vehicles are continually in motion can be. I am saddened that the risk because reality for the APM/Ceres stevedore. My condolences go out to her family and friends.


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