Forklift safety in the spotlight again

Monday, 25 September, 2006

Forklift safety has again become a focus of attention as three convictions over forklift-related injuries are handed down in SA in three weeks.

Bryan Russell at SafeWork SA told Safety Solutions that these heavy penalties are a "stark reminder that failure to meet required standards for the operation of forklift trucks will be dealt with harshly by the courts".

Last Friday, a flooring company was fined $35,000 after a female employee fell from the tines of a forklift she had been invited to ride on and was then run over by it. The 24-year-old backpacker suffered a broken lower leg.

Earlier last week, another company was convicted and fined $18,750. An employee was being lifted in a metal cage on the tines of a forklift to remove louvres from an overhead air conditioning duct.

During the procedure the employee fell approximately six metres, as the unsecured cage was not designed as a personnel box. He suffered injuries to his left wrist and elbow.

Finally, in early September, two companies were fined a total of $72,000 over a 2004 incident in Royal Park. A roller door installer fell nearly three metres while aloft a forklift and then had a heavy metal cage fall on top of him.

There are many things businesses can do to improve the safety of their forklift fleet and operations. According to Russell, of paramount importance is that all forklift operators be trained and assessed as competent to operate the equipment safely.

SafeWork SA recently participated in the yet to be released National Licensing Standard. Russell said it has been designed to "introduce a number of requirements which will improve the safe operation of industrial equipment, including forklifts".

Part of this standard is the requirement for accredited assessors to be linked to registered training organisations.

"This will improve the consistency and quality of the training process," Russell said. "Following the introduction of the new standard " expected July 2007 " operators who successfully achieve the competencies required for the safe operation of forklifts will be issued a national licence."

In the meantime, businesses can contact their state regulator to access a range of products and publications that have been designed to improve forklift safety.

Wendy Cramer " Editor

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