Safety alert issued after worker almost fatally crushed

Monday, 05 February, 2024

Safety alert issued after worker almost fatally crushed

NT WorkSafe has released a safety alert after a Darwin worker was seriously injured when he was crushed by a bundle of steel weighing over 1.2 tonnes. The incident occurred in 2023, as two workers were loading bundles of steel onto a trailer using a forklift. The injured worker, who was a subcontractor, was acting as a spotter and standing on the opposite side of the trailer from the forklift when a load slipped from the forklift tynes as it was being lowered.

Reports of the incident sent to NT WorkSafe indicate that the worker sustained life-threatening injuries; fortunately, the worker survived, but suffered multiple fractures throughout his body and was hospitalised for two months. The worker is still receiving medical treatment and faces months of rehabilitation.

There are several factors that may have contributed to the incident. Namely, that the steel bundle was an awkward load, measuring approximately six metres in length, almost one metre in width and over 1.2 tonnes in weight. The bundle was also wrapped in plastic. The load was being lifted directly on the tynes (with no pallet used) and the plastic wrap may have caused less friction between the load and the metal tynes. The forklift mast may have been tilted forward when the load was lowered, causing it to slip from the tynes. The forklift operator may also have lost sight of the spotter, who had moved to stand near the load as it was being lowered.

To help prevent similar incidents, NT WorkSafe advises employers to carry out a risk assessment before commencing any work, to identify the potential hazards and implement control measures to minimise the risk. Employers must also develop and document safe work procedures for the task at hand and have them readily available for all workers and subcontractors. A prestart check must also be conducted before starting the forklift. Once the forklift has starter, all controls, pedals and brakes must be checked to ensure they are operating correctly. If any damage or problems are noticed, the forklift should be isolated so it cannot be used.

Employers are also advised to ensure that loads that have the ability to slip, fall or roll off the forklift tynes or pallet are appropriately restrained. Before operating a forklift that requires a spotter, the operator, spotter and any other workers involved in the task must establish a system of communication before any work starts. Workers are advised to never stand under or near a raised load in case of equipment malfunction or operator error.

The use of a forklift is considered high risk work and requires the operator to hold an appropriate licence to perform high risk work, issued by NT WorkSafe or another Australian Work Health and Safety Regulator. It is an offence to operate a forklift without a licence or with an expired licence.

Image credit: Calaitzis

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