Regulator urges employers to take action on forklift safety

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 5 May, 2023 - 12:00
Industry news
New South Wales

NSW Minister for Work Health and Safety, Sophie Cotsis, has called on businesses and workers across the state to follow forklift safety guidelines after 1538 serious forklift-related incidents have been reported over the past five years.

Between 2017 and 2022 there were five deaths and 1538 serious incidents in NSW involving forklifts.

The most common contributing factors in forklift-related incidents were found to be:

  • Persons/workers being hit by a forklift.
  • Inadequate traffic management (e.g., no traffic management plan or process for separating the plant from pedestrians).
  • Falling objects caused by unstable loads, overloading, or incorrect use of attachments.
  • Workers being ejected during a tip-over or plant instability, as systems were not in place to prevent the operator from being ejected e.g., not wearing a seatbelt.
  • Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) allowing unlicensed operators or operators with expired licences to use forklifts.

As part of a forklift safety compliance operation from May 2021 to July 2022, SafeWork NSW conducted 669 inspections across the Sydney Metropolitan area with the highest volume of inspections in the Outer West and Blue Mountains, the Central Coast, Blacktown, and Parramatta.

A total of 493 compliance notices were issued by inspectors, and of these notices, 18 were penalty notices with a joint value of $19,584, 14 (82 per cent) were issued to individual workers; and four (18 per cent) were issued to corporations.

SafeWork NSW said there are a number of critical factors employers should put in place to help improve systems, processes and working environments concerning forklift-related safety:

  • Create a system to manage high-risk work licenses.
  • Conduct regular forklift maintenance as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Assess, implement, monitor, and review traffic management procedures.
  • Implement a system to ensure that forklifts are inspected and maintained by a competent person.
  • Create a system to identify the relevant risks associated with mobile plants in the workplace and determine the appropriate controls (e.g., administrative, engineering or PPE) to mitigate risks.
  • Ensure you have a system to consult with employees, and their representatives, to conduct assessments.
  • Separate people from moving forklifts, where possible, by having designated walkways, identified crossing and good lighting, and physical barriers.

In terms of day-to-day actions, SafeWork NSW also said employers should:

  • Ensure forklift operators have their high-risk work licence.
  • Ensure forklift operators always wear a seatbelt.
  • Ensure appropriate use of forklift attachments.
  • Ensure forklift operators only move stable loads and ensure their vision is not obstructed when travelling.
  • Use attachments if needed and do not travel with a load that obscures vision. If necessary and if vision is obscured, drive in reverse or if not possible, use a trained spotter.
  • Use a suitable forklift for the load with the correct load capacity.
  • Follow the manufacturers' and operators' manuals for the use of the forklift in the workplace.
  • Ensure workers and visitors adhere to your traffic management plan and/or site safety rules.
  • Ensure forklift operators conduct pre-start checklists before using a plant.