Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine

All workplace incidents result from a combination of actions and circumstances that come together at a specific point in time that can result in injury or damage.  WorkSafe Victoria reported on 17 February 2010 about a company that was successfully prosecuted, and fined $A60,000, after a worker had his foot crushed under a forklift.  The worker’s foot was later amputated.

Below is a summary of the incident taken from a WorkSafe media release (not yet available online):

“A Kilsyth company was convicted and fined $60,000 on Monday after a forklift driven by a 22-year-old man tipped over, crushing his foot which was later amputated.

The worker was not licensed to drive a forklift – nor was he wearing a seatbelt when the forklift tipped in December 2008.

The Ringwood Magistrates Court heard that his employer, Elliot Engineering Pty Ltd (an engineering business specialising in medium to heavy metal fabrication), failed to provide safe systems of work in respect of forklift operations.  The company pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain safe plant and systems of work.

The worker began driving forklifts less than a month after beginning work with Elliott Engineering.  After a few months, he was driving a forklift every second day – despite not holding a license.

The incident occurred when the worker tried to make a right turn on an uneven and inclined gravel area.  As the machine tipped, the operator went to jump out the left side but the forklift landed on his feet and trapped him.

When investigating the incident, WorkSafe found Elliot Engineering did not have systems to ensure forklift drivers held licences, were trained, or wore seatbelts.  In addition, drivers had not been trained on the Linde forklifts, which had a different foot pedal set-up to other forklifts used at that workplace.” (links added)

The media release went on to identify changes that Elliott Engineering have made

  • “implementing a register of employees who hold a forklift licence,
  • a system which disables forklifts’ engines until the operator has fastened the seatbelt.”

Licensing, training, seat belts, uneven surface – issues that occur in almost all forklift incidents in Australian workplaces.

SafetyAtWorkBlog contacted Elliot Engineering over the fine but they declined to make any comment.  The company declined to say whether the injured worker was still working at the company.

The company’s website includes the following OHS statement:

“The Eliott Group of Companies place a high priority on Occupational Health & Safety where individuals health & safety will not be compromised

The Management of the Eliott Group of Companies is committed to ensuring that all employees are safe from injuries and risks to health while they are at work and accepts that employee health and safety is primarily a responsibility of management

The aim therefore of is to ensure that all of the Eliott Group of Companies employees are safe from injuries and risks to health while they are at work. In particular, aims to ensure that, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • • a safe working environment and safe systems of work are provided and maintained;
  • • machinery, equipment and substances are provided and maintained in a safe condition;
  • • employees are provided with the information, instruction, training and supervision that they need, to ensure their health and safety;

Health and Safety is an integral part of management for the Eliott Group of Companies and ranks equally with all other activities of the organisation”

The website notes that page that includes the statement was “Last updated: 10 March, 2005”, three and a half years before the forklift incident.

Kevin Jones

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