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Abattoir fined $95K for avoidable forklift injury

One obvious workplace hazard many businesses are still failing to address is forklift safety.

Last month, Victorian abattoir Midfield Meat International Pty Ltd was fined $95,000 after a fifth forklift accident in the state this year.

In this incident, the forklift driver’s view was obscured by a bin he was transporting when he struck another worker and a company director who were standing in a ‘thoroughfare’ area in the centre of a yard.

He only realised he had hit these people when another worker yelled out.

The worker sustained two broken ribs, while the director escaped injury. But the outcome could have been much worse.

“Already this year one worker has died and the courts have fined four companies in relation to serious forklift incidents prosecuted by WorkSafe,” WorkSafe Victoria Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said.

While this company did have a traffic management system in place, it was out of date, and there were no exclusion zones or barriers set up to separate pedestrians from forklifts.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to eliminate the risk of powered mobile machines colliding with pedestrians.

As well as being fined, it was ordered to pay $4,000 prosecution costs.

This is the fifth time this company has been convicted for violating health and safety law.

Ms 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 has reminded employers who use mobile machinery like forklifts that they must 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.
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