Safety alert issued after mechanic fatally crushed in forklift incident

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Tuesday, 11 June, 2019 - 17:15
Policy & legislation

WorkSafe Victoria recently issued a safety alert about the hazards and risk controls associated with forklifts, following an incident in which a mechanic died after being crushed between a forklift mast and a rolled-up section of excavator track.

He was standing on the forklift between the track and the mast of the forklift, while oxy-cutting a section of track that was resting in the middle of the tines. A section of excavator track became destabilised and pinned him against the forklift.

WorkSafe Victoria, which is currently investigating this incident, said forklifts are one of the most hazardous workplace vehicles and are frequently found in warehouses, workshops and factories. Their improper use is a common cause of serious incidents.

The alert said there are considerable risks when safe systems of work aren’t in place for tasks involving the use of forklifts.

People operating or working around forklifts may become complacent because they are quiet, in frequent use and form part of the work environment. However, incidents involving forklifts are usually serious and often fatal.

The alert suggested a number of recommended ways to control risks

  • Forklift operators should always operate forklifts in accordance with their high-risk work licence training.
  • Forklifts are used only in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and in accordance with guidance contained in operations manuals.
  • Employers should be aware of the capabilities and limitations of forklifts used in their workplace and ensure this information is provided to employees.

Employers were reminded that forklift operation requires training and instruction so that a worker can understand the nature of the hazards associated with the work and that risk control measures are implemented to deal with these hazards.

A person must not perform high risk work, including the operation of a forklift, unless the person holds the appropriate licence, according to the alert, which said employers must:

  • Provide and maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes identifying risks to health or safety, such as crushing, and eliminating or reducing those risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Provide or maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health.
  • Provide the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable their employees to perform their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health.
  • Ensure that employees who operate forklifts hold an appropriate high-risk work licence to perform the work.