Forklift death results in hefty fine for poultry contractor

By Safety Solutions Staff
Tuesday, 12 September, 2017

A poultry contractor has been convicted and fined $1.13 million over an incident in which a man was struck and killed by a forklift on a farm at Lethbridge, near Geelong, in 2015, according to a WorkSafe Victoria report.

CK Crouch Pty Ltd was found guilty in the Geelong Magistrate’s Court of three breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 — two charges of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work and one charge of failing to provide information, instruction and training to employees.

The court heard that there was a risk of serious injury or death to employees working near a moving forklift in near dark conditions.

Baiada Poultry Pty Ltd had contracted CK Crouch to catch and load live chickens from its Lethbridge farm in 2015, where the incident occurred.

A forklift carrying a full cage of chickens was moving through the shed at about 5 km/h when it struck a worker as he was picking up a chicken. The shed had been darkened to reduce stress to the animals as they were rounded up to be put in cages.

The 41-year-old man, who was wearing dark clothing without any high-vis at the time, suffered serious chest, spine and pelvis injuries and died at the scene.

The company had two written work procedures for catching and manually loading live chickens into cages and safety around workers and forklifts. The procedure for the separation of the forklift from workers was illustrated in a safety diagram.

However, the court heard that employees were not aware of these procedures, and had not been provided with information, instruction or training about the safe working procedures around forklifts. It was also found that the forklift driver had not been inducted into the safety procedures.

“This company had safety procedures written down and even illustrated in a diagram, but they weren’t worth the paper they were on because they’d provided none of the information or training to their employees,” WorkSafe Victoria Executive Director of Health and Safety Marnie Williams said.

“Tragically, it cost a man his life and a family their loved one.

“To be operating a forklift late at night with the shed illuminated by a single row of dim blue lights during the catching and loading process, and with no requirement for workers to wear high-vis vests, is just a staggering departure from safe working practices.”

WorkSafe tips for working safely with a forklift include:

  • Ensure all workers receive appropriate induction and training on the work they are to be involved in and that a register of training and induction is maintained on file.
  • Ensure machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained.
  • If a traffic management plan is required, ensure it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
  • Workers and members of the public must be isolated and separated from powered machinery and vehicles.
  • Implement an effective communication system between forklift operators, transport contractors and ground staff.
  • Ensure appropriate signage is in place and erect barriers where appropriate.
  • Identify and control visibility issues, particularly if lighting is poor (eg, fog, rain, night works).
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