Kitchen installer fined after loaded pallet falls on worker
Commercial kitchen cabinet importer and installer Trendgosa Pty Ltd has been fined $50,000 after a loaded pallet fell from a forklift and hit a worker, causing serious injuries. The company pleaded guilty to a charge of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work that were, so far as reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health. The company was also ordered to pay $2698 in costs.
In December 2021 a forklift driver was unloading a shipping container at the company’s Heidelberg West warehouse; as the forklift exited the container carrying a loaded pallet, the load fell from the forklift’s tines and struck a worker standing outside. The injured worker sustained fractures to his skull, temple, shoulder blade, collar bone and ribs, and punctured lungs.
A WorkSafe investigation found the forklift driver did not have a current High Risk Work Licence for forklift operation and that the company did not have a traffic management plan to protect pedestrians when unloading shipping containers. The court heard it was reasonably practicable for the company to have a traffic management plan and set up a three-metre exclusion zone, such as by using bollards and barricade tape, to prevent anyone entering the area while the forklift was operating.
It was also reasonably practicable to ensure that the forklift was stopped and that any loads were positioned to prevent them coming into contact with anyone, prior to the forklift operator permitting anyone to enter the exclusion zone. WorkSafe Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said this was a serious breach and that too many employers still fail to control the risks associated with forklifts.
“Working with forklifts is inherently hazardous and employers must be proactive to protect workers and others from the risk of being struck by a load or a moving forklift. That means using a traffic management plan, including measures to separate pedestrians from moving vehicles and loads, such as barriers, exclusion zones and warning signs,” Beer said.
Since January 2022, fines totalling $775,000 were imposed by the courts against companies and directors in 13 WorkSafe prosecutions involving forklifts. In the same period, WorkSafe accepted 19 claims from workers seriously injured in forklift incidents and since February 2019, eight people have died as a result of forklift incidents.
WorkSafe Victoria advises employers using mobile plant such as forklifts to ensure that a traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate. Employers must also ensure that pedestrians are separated from moving machinery, with an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff in place.
Signage must also be in place, with barriers erected where appropriate. Additionally, visibility issues must be identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor. WorkSafe advises that workers operating equipment must have the appropriate high risk work licences, with all machinery and vehicles to be inspected and maintained regularly by a suitably qualified person. Employees and health and safety representatives must also be consulted about health and safety issues.
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