Forklift incident costs NZ company over $34,000

New Zealand’s Department of Labour (DoL) has released a statement that illustrates a classic scenario for forklift safety.  According to the statement :

“The employee was walking in a freezer when he was hit from behind by a forklift carrying a 10-carton-high pallet of packed meat.  The Department’s investigation showed the height of the load impeded the driver’s view and contributed to the incident.

The employee’s hip and thigh were fractured. He was in hospital for three weeks and has only recently returned to full-time work.”

The incident occurred in April 2009 with the company being fined $NZ34,000. Continue reading “Forklift incident costs NZ company over $34,000”

Is forklift safety a fantasy of OHS professionals?

Recently a colleague brought a YouTube video on forklift safety to the attention of SafetyAtWorkBlog.  The video illustrates the risks associated with jumping from a tilting forklift.  By comparing this to a mouse trap, the Washington Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) is illustrating the importance of the safety cage on forklifts and the role of seatbelts.  The video is from around 2005 and remains fundamentally sound in its advice.

Seatbelts are a continuously contentious safety advice on forklifts, not because they do not work, but because very few forklift operators use them.  Yet the seatbelt restraint is integral to the driver’s safety in a tipping forklift as the video below illustrates.

Continue reading “Is forklift safety a fantasy of OHS professionals?”

“Imagination at work” but not safety

GE Capital placed a full-page pictorial advertisement in The Age newspaper on 4 March 2010 (page 5 of the business section).  The ad, partly reproduced below, promotes the company’s financial services with the corporate slogan of “imagination at work”.  Sadly safety at work wasn’t included in the ad.

SafetyAtWorkBlog readers are asked to list the workplace hazards in this picture.   Continue reading ““Imagination at work” but not safety”

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. Continue reading “Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine”

Two forklift cases in Australia – one death and one fine

On 19 October 2009, SafeWorkSA released details of a court case against Macbar Nominees Pty Ltd trading as Southern Cross Trailers .  The company has been fined over $A15,000 due to the incapacitating injury of a worker from a load falling off a forklift.  The event, described below, occurred in July 2007.

“A man aged 38 at the time had been with the firm just two weeks in his job as a labourer. He and two colleagues had been instructed to clean a work area: a job, which involved lifting several large items by forklift.

In the process of this task, a drum that was part of an unsecured load raised aloft by the forklift, fell about two metres onto the man as he moved a second pallet beneath.

He suffered a head wound, which required stitches and a finger injury that required surgery. In a Victim Impact Statement, the court heard that the worker had been unable to resume his work as a labourer as a result of the finger injury.”

A forklift-related incident occurred in Queensland on 5 October 2009 and details of the incident are being reported in the media.  According to Queensland Emergency Services

“Firefighters and paramedics responded to a business on Riverview Road at Dinmore around 10.50pm after a man became trapped under a forklift.  The 18-year-old suffered from crush injuries to his head, neck and chest and was declared deceased at the scene.”

According to media reports, the man had been working at the abattoir for only two months and was not licenced to operate a forklift.  Clearly the management of the site has some very serious questions to answer to the family and the Government.

It is still too early to make more than basic recommendations from this case as the available information is conflicting or not yet released.

  • Licences for driving forklifts or for operating any specialised plant  must be produced and verified, regardless of the size of the site or the complexity of the task.
  • Whether the man was specifically given the task to drive the forklift or whether he was “skylarking”, still raises the issue of supervision.
  • The matter of communication with the family of workplace victims, whether by the Government or the company, is also very relevant.

Kevin Jones

When ATV helmets are “best practice”

A recent media statement from the New Zealand Department of Labour on all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety is annoying and disappointing.

On 15 September 2009, the Palmerston North District Court today fined farmer Trevor Mark Schroder $25,000 and ordered him to pay reparation of $20,000 to his employee John Haar over an  ATV accident on 26 November 2008 that left Mr Haar with serious head injuries.

Dr Geraint Emry, the DoL Chief Adviser for Health and Safety, says

“…Mr Haar was riding an ATV supplied by Mr Schroder when he apparently drove into a wire used to direct cows into specific areas of the farm.  Mr Haar had not been wearing a helmet and the severity of his injuries increased as a consequence.  Nor had he been told that the wire he rode into had been put across the race.”

atvguide2 coverThe statement goes on to state

“The Agricultural Guidelines – Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms – advise that the wearing of helmets by quad bike riders is considered best practice.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog strongly knows that New Zealand is very active in ATV safety but finds it hard to believe that the “wearing of helmets…is considered best practice”.  This admits that, in using ATVs, personal protective equipment is the best hazard control option available.

The guidelines mentioned above are from 2003 and do mention ROPS:

“Until such time as there is evidence to the contrary, farmers have the right to choose whether or not they fit ROPS to their ATVs.”

The NZ DoL and, by inference, the Chief Adviser are quoting a 2003 guideline as best practice in 2009?!

Relying on helmets may be the reality but is also an admission of defeat with ATV designers and manufacturer.  In many circumstances ATVs cannot be fitted with roll-over protective structures (ROPS) due to the nature of the work – orcharding for example.  But Australia and New Zealand insist on ROPS for tractors, with similar criteria and exceptions to ATVs.

VWA Farm_ROPs coverIn one ROPS FAQ from the NZ DoL it says

“Evidence both in New Zealand and overseas has shown that the risk of injury in a tractor overturn can be substantially reduced when the tractor is fitted with ROPS of the appropriate standard.”


“Where the nature of the operation makes it not practical for ROPS to be fitted to an agricultural tractor, then, under the terms of this code of practice, the General Manager, Occupational Safety & Health Service, may issue a notice excluding the tractor from the requirement to have a ROPS.”

Some States in Australia have had rebate schemes for ROPS for many years.

It is suggested that a better level of driver protection from rollovers is evident on forklifts through the use of seatbelt and an integrated protective structure.  Applying logic to safety is fraught with danger but the rollover hazard is the same whether in a warehouse or a paddock and having only a helmet for a forklift driver would be absurd and unacceptable.  Why is only a helmet considered best practice for ATV drivers?

Rather than comparing ATVs to motorcycles as in this 2003 report, the comparison should be between ATVs and tractors or, maybe, forklifts.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says this about ROPS and ATVs in June 2008:

Many ATVs have a high centre of gravity, and are prone to tipping over when cornering or being driven on a slope. Rollover is the leading cause of injury associated with ATVs – riders can be crushed or trapped under an overturned machine.

If you attach a rollover protection structure (ROPS) to your ATV, make sure it’s securely fastened, doesn’t interfere with rider mobility and doesn’t raise the ATV’s centre of gravity. Contact OSH for guidelines on how to fit ROPS safely, and make sure the ROPS is strong enough to protect you.

So why aren’t ROPS considered best practice by the DoL?

The ATV injury case quoted above is unlikely to have occurred if the ATV had some form of structure around the driver or, admittedly, the wire was more visible or known to the driver.  The relevance in this case was that the helmet most probably reduced the severity of the injury but would not have avoided contact with the wire.

Research is occurring on ROPS for ATVs but the rollover hazard has existed for as long as ATVs have existed.  Are ATVs simply unsuitable for the work they are being used for?  Is the design wrong for workplace use?  Are they being advertised or promoted for inappropriate use?  Should farm workers be encouraged legislatively or financially to fit ROPS?  Perhaps the only safe ATV is a tractor?

Is the requirement for ROPS for tractors, but only helmets for ATVs, an acceptable double standard for workplace safety?

Kevin Jones

Forklift truck safety marketing

hss0052-1rklifts-developing-0x167b100p-974trafficmanagement-08eb416clanOn 30 March 2009, WorkSafe Victoria released a suggested traffic management plan for forklift trucks.  It basically reiterates the regulators calls over many years of separating pedestrian walkways from traffic areas.

WorkSafe is, justifiably, concerned over this type of workplace machinery and the risks presented by its inappropriate use, as seen by its response to forklift high-jinks recently.

Tomorrow in the Safety In Action Trade Show there will be a forklift driving competition.  This will involve

“Obstacle course tests forklift driver hand-eye coordination and skills. Thousands in prize money”

and there will be 

“Colour, movement, competition, clumsy forklifts moving with grace and speed”

Let’s hope they move safely.

Kevin Jones

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