Court penalty highlights forklift dangers

Tuesday, 20 October, 2009

A South Australian trailer manufacturer was fined by an industrial magistrate over an incident in which a man was injured while working beneath a forklift.

Macbar Nominees, trading as Southern Cross Trailers, pleaded guilty to breaching section 19(1) of the Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986 in failing to provide a safe system of work, as well as appropriate information, instruction and training.

SafeWork SA prosecuted after investigating the incident at the company’s premises in 2007. A man had been working with the firm as a labourer for just two weeks, when he and two colleagues had been instructed to clean a work area, which involved lifting several large items by forklift. In the process of this task, a drum that was part of an unsecured load raised aloft by the forklift, fell about 2 m onto the man as he moved a second pallet beneath. He suffered a head wound, which required stitches, and a finger injury that required surgery.

In a victim impact statement, the court heard that the worker had been unable to resume his work as a labourer as a result of the finger injury.

In his decision on penalty, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said the employer had failed to factor safety into the task being performed: “[the employer] … failed to consider the risks and appropriate control measures, including proper instruction, training and supervision, in relation to the use of its forklifts.

“Forklifts are powered industrial trucks and present hazards, not only from their own movement but also from their ability to lift loads. The stored energy in any raised object is a potential hazard that must be considered.”

The court was told that the employer had since improved its operating procedures and relevant training and instruction. Magistrate Lieschke fined the company $15,300, after discounting the penalty by 15% to acknowledge its early guilty plea, cooperation, contrition and remedial action.

SafeWork SA Executive Director Michele Patterson said: “The case illustrates one of the many dangers posed by forklifts in workplaces and the need for appropriate systems to keep people safely clear of such machines and their loads, when they’re in operation.”

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