The Warrnambool Magistrates Court recently fined Midfield Meat International $95,000 and ordered the company to pay WorkSafe Victoria’s costs of $4000 after an employee sustained fractured ribs in an incident which a forklift.
The company pleaded guilty to one charge under Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to eliminate the risk of powered mobile machines colliding with pedestrians.
The court heard a worker and a company director were standing in the centre of a yard in an area referred to as the “thoroughfare” when the incident occurred on 30 October 2017.
At the time another employee was driving a forklift carrying a bin filled with skins along the thoroughfare towards a truck that was being loaded.
The court heard the driver’s view was obscured by the bin as he drove forward, and he was only alerted to the incident when someone yelled out.
After stopping he found he had hit two people, injuring the employee, who sustained two fractured ribs. The director did not sustain a serious injury.
The court heard the company had a traffic management system in place but it had not been updated and there were no designated pedestrian walkways or physical barriers to separate pedestrian only areas.
The court heard the company has four prior workplace safety convictions.
WorkSafe Victoria Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said the extreme danger forklifts posed when used without proper safety measures in place was well known.
“Already this year one worker has died and the courts have fined four companies in relation to serious forklift incidents prosecuted by WorkSafe,” Nielsen said.
“In this case a worker could have been prevented from receiving debilitating injuries had an appropriate traffic management plan, which includes physical separation of forklifts and people, been in place.
“All workers should undertake appropriate training on the tasks and machinery they are to be involved with, failure to do so can result in severe consequences.”
WorkSafe Victoria said employers using mobile machinery such as forklifts should ensure:
· All workers receive appropriate induction and training on the work they are to be involved in, and that a register of training and induction is maintained on file.
· Signage is in place and barriers are erected where appropriate.
· Visibility issues are identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor.
· Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained, by a suitably qualified person.
· A traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
· Pedestrians are separated from moving machinery and that an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff is in place.