Company, directors fined for forklift crush incident

Wednesday, 15 November, 2023

Company, directors fined for forklift crush incident

A labour hire company and its two directors have been fined a total of $46,500 after one of the directors ran over a worker’s leg while operating a forklift at a Sunshine West factory in 2022. The company, Hireoo Pty Ltd, was fined $40,000 without conviction after pleading guilty to one charge under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing, as far as reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain a safe working environment and plant or systems of work that were safe and without risks to health.

The directors each pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to provide information, instruction, training or supervision to enable employees to work safely and were fined $4500 and $2000 respectively without conviction. Payment of costs totalling $4814 were also ordered.

The incident occurred in January 2022, when the worker was helping to unload a shipping container. The worker walked behind the forklift being driven by the director who reversed without looking, hitting the worker and running over his leg. The worker suffered a broken tibia and fibula and required surgery, including the insertion of a rod and three screws into his leg.

An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria found that the worker had joined the company two days before the incident and had received no induction or training in relation to the workplace. The company did not have a forklift policy or a work procedure for unloading shipping containers; its worker training, induction and supervision were also inadequate. WorkSafe advises employers using mobile plant such as forklifts to ensure that a traffic management plan is implemented and updated as appropriate. Employers must also separate pedestrians from moving machinery, with an effective communication system in place between operators, transport contractors and ground staff.

Signage and barriers must also be implemented where appropriate, with visibility issues identified and controlled, particularly if the lighting is poor. Employers are also advised to ensure that machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person, and that the workers operating the equipment hold the appropriate high risk work licences. Employees and health and safety representatives must also be consulted about health and safety issues.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it is essential when operating forklifts that the correct safety measures are in place, such as a traffic management plan that includes the separation of forklifts and pedestrians.

“It is simply unacceptable for a workplace to be operating mobile machinery such as forklifts while completely ignoring the control measures that must be in place to reduce the risks to workers. It is also incredibly frustrating to see that this company and its directors have further failed their workers by not providing them with the proper training and supervision they need to stay safe at work,” Beer said.

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