Lack of separation of pedestrians and forklifts results in $A24k fine

SafeWorkSA has released details of a successful OHS prosecution concerning forklifts, yet again.  But the full judgement has more management information than is usual and deserves to be read in full.

The circumstances, according to a media release (not yet available online) are

“…an incident… in August 2007 in which a 56 year old delivery driver tripped over the tines of a forklift which was about to exit the curtained doorway of a cold-room.”

The judgement in the South Australian Industrial Court expands upon the charge:

“… that Kerafi, being the occupier of a workplace, had failed to ensure so far as was reasonably practicable that means of access to and egress from the workplace was safe.  In particular Kerafi was alleged to have permitted forklifts, employees and non-employees to use the common doorway, and in circumstances where that doorway had impaired visibility for those exiting or entering the building.  A system of separating pedestrians and forklifts in and around the doorway was identified as the appropriate hazard control measure that should have been implemented to eliminate or reduce the risk of collision and injury.”

“There is no doubt that permitting free pedestrian access to a large cold-room in which at least one forklift was regularly moving through the doorway was unsafe. Use of a common doorway that was curtained with an opaque material with poor visibility and without any attempt to separate pedestrians from forklifts created an unnecessary risk of collision. This is despite there being a nearby pedestrian door that could have been used for that purpose.

There was risk of injury every time a person entered or left the cold-room on foot and every time a person drove a forklift through the doorway.”

It is recommended that the full judgement be read as there are other issues about the injured worker’s mental status in relation to an earlier head injury.  There is also a mention of a hazard risk assessment  undertaken after the incident which verified the hazard mentioned in the quote above.

Kerafi had operated the premises for several years after purchasing it and Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke specifically mentioned that the offence:

“…results from complacency and a lack of proper attention to basic safety considerations.”

He goes on to say:

“When any business is acquired as an ongoing concern the due diligence process undertaken by a prospective purchaser must include a comprehensive assessment of occupational health and safety compliance.”

There seems to be much more to this work site than what can be covered in a media release and a court judgement.  Like many other businesses there are a range of general management practices and priorities that impinge on a safe workplace.  It seems that Kerafi was not very different from most small businesses in their approach to safety.  What this incident shows is that doing nothing, or very little, on OHS is not risk-free.

Kevin Jones

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