Big fine after ‘preventable’ forklift death 

By Andrew Hobbs on September 12th, 2017
  1. Policies & Procedures
  2. Safe Operating Procedures

A fine of $375,000 has been levied against New South Wales meat processing business Macleay River Protein over the death of a worker in a forklift accident.

The 28-year-old meat rendering worker died after he was pinned between a wall and a steel bin that was being carried by a forklift he had been using on 4 August 2015.

The man was using the forklift to remove the empty steel bins from the rendering plant when, after moving a steel bin to a wall, he stopped the forklift on a sloping incline and applied the handbrake, but failed to chock the wheels.

He then walked between the front of the forklift and the wall, pushing and kicking the bin in an attempt to close the bin’s door. But the forklift handbrake released, causing the vehicle to move forward and pin him against the wall, causing the fatal injuries.

SafeWork NSW executive director Peter Dunphy said the incident was “totally preventable”, noting the man was not licensed to operate a forklift and that he was not being supervised at the time.

“This incident was not caused by a momentary lapse, rather, it was a result of an absence of adequate work health and safety systems and could have been prevented with a few simple safety measures,” Mr Dunphy said.

Wheel chocks

“These include providing workers with instruction and training in the safe use of forklifts as well as wheel chocks, and providing wheel chocks on forklifts to prevent unintended movement.“Other steps include implementing and enforcing a ‘key register’ to restrict the use of forklifts to licensed operators only,” he said.

A spokesman for Macleay River Protein told Porter Press that the company would not appeal the penalty, after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to comply with its duties under the Work Health and Safety Act in the NSW District Court.

According to Safe Work Australia, 12 people died in 2015 after being trapped between stationary and moving objects – the fifth most common method of worker fatalities for that year.

Safe Work NSW says there are three main reasons for people being killed or seriously injured in forklift accidents.

  1. People are hit by a forklift because of driver error, working too close to the forklift or inadequate traffic management;
  2. People are hit by a load being moved by a forklift because the driver did not use an attachment when one was needed, or they were assisting to adjust or steady the load; or
  3. Drivers were not wearing a seat belt in a tip-over. Forklifts mostly tipped because operators were turning on uneven or sloping ground.

Cases such as the one above demonstrate the importance of ensuring that company safety processes are robust and that all workers are adequately trained in them.Information and tips on how to help avoid serious workplace accidents, incidents and near misses can be found in the Health & Safety Handbook, which suggests a series of processes to help you manage the risks of doing business at your company.

The following chapters, all written in plain English by the health and safety lawyers at Holding Redlich, can assist:

  • P3 Plant Safety Management, which includes a Forklift Pre-Start Checklist
  • S1 Safe Operating Procedures
  • S5 Supervision of Safe Work
  • T2 Training and Induction
  • L1 Licensing and Registration

With more than 70 chapters covering the A-Z of workplace health and safety, the Health & Safety Handbook boasts a strong selection of suggestions and sets of step-by-step instructions to help develop stronger safety protocols in your workplace.Order your copy of the Health & Safety Handbook today and put it to work at your business on an obligation-free trial.


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