Australian Lamb (Colac) Pty Ltd has been fined $55,000 without conviction, after a worker was injured in a forklift incident at a Colac abattoir in 2019. The company pleaded guilty to two charges of failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.
The court heard that in October 2019, the injured worker was standing at a sorting table in an area of the workplace known as the skin shed, while another worker was operating a forklift nearby. The forklift driver was elevating a load of sheep skins four to five metres high into a drum for salting when the 500- to 600-kilogram metal basket slipped and fell to the ground, clipping the worker. He was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital with a broken bone in his spine and damage to a shoulder muscle.
WorkSafe Victoria found that there was inadequate information, training and supervision given to workers to ensure they kept a safe distance from elevated loads. The court heard that there was also no formal traffic management plan in place for the skin shed, with no mechanism provided to secure the metal basket to the forklift.
“Forklifts are among the biggest causes of workplace injuries and deaths in Victorian workplaces. Even an incident involving a slow-moving forklift can have serious consequences. WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute businesses who fail to eliminate the well-known risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians and other machinery,” Dr Narelle Beer, Executive Director of WorkSafe Victoria said.
Employers using mobile plant such as forklifts are advised to ensure that a traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant; the plan must also be reviewed and updated as appropriate. Pedestrians must also be separated from moving machinery, with an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff in place. Employers are also advised to ensure that signage is in place and that barriers have been erected where appropriate. Visibility issues must also be identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor. Employers must ensure that workers operating equipment have the appropriate high risk work licences, as required. Machinery and vehicles must be inspected and maintained regularly by a suitably qualified person. WorkSafe also advises employers using mobile plant to ensure that employees and health and safety professionals are consulted about health and safety issues.