Safety warning for forklift operators

Friday, 07 July, 2006

Forklift owners and operators have been warned of the potential safety risks associated with the hiring or buying of equipment with unfamiliar control pedals.

Michael Birt of WorkSafe Victoria told Safety Solutions that the warning was issued in response to two incidents "“ one fatal "“ that involved rollovers after forklifts with a different layout of pedals common to the workforce were used.

One of these cases occurred when a forklift was being trialled prior to purchase in a warehouse in Western Australia. The driver unintentionally accelerated in reverse rather than stopping and moving forward.

The forklift reversed off a loading dock and down a drop of more than a metre, resulting in the death of the driver.

"Forklifts are made all over the world and can have brake and accelerator pedals in different positions. When hiring or purchasing new gear, employers need to be aware of this issue and ideally go for the configuration that operators are used to," Birt said.

Some forklifts have one brake pedal, others have an accelerator pedal that allows forward or reverse mode to be selected by foot position on the pedal. On some models, one pedal is used for forward motion and another for reversing.

Plant hire businesses are obligated to provide information on the safe use of their equipment to the user. But employers are also obligated to assess and control risk and provide training and information on the safe use of equipment to employees.

In cases where it is not possible to match control configurations, Birt recommended putting in place extra systems such as induction and training before allowing unfamiliar operators to use equipment.

Wendy Cramer, Editor

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