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Australian freight company fined over forklift accident

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1_forkliftMassena, a West Australian freight company, was involved in a forklift accident causing a leg injury to an employee. They pleaded guilty after they failed to provide and maintain a safe work environment. Massena was fined $20,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court.

Trading by the name of Star Freightlines, Massena has around 30 employees in a transport yard in Karratha. The freights are transported from Canning Vale to the Karratha depot, then it is delivered to the clients.

The incident happened last February 2011. According to WorkSafe WA, two drivers were talking five metres away from one of the delivery trucks when the Karratha Depot Manager drove a forklift from the shed toward the rear of the truck. The manager then turned the forklift at a high speed toward the direction of the drivers, not seeing them. One of the drivers saw the forklift moving toward them so he tried to warn the manager, and he tried to pull the other driver out of the way. But the reversing of the forklift was too fast that it still struck one of the drivers. The driver was knocked down facing the ground. The forklift stopped momentarily but continued, running over the driver’s left leg. He suffered from a dislocated patella with significant abrasions and bruises.

At that time, Massena did not have any policy at all on the safe operation of forklifts. There was no safety precautions like sounding the horn of the forklift before reversing. There was no speed requirements in driving the forklifts. Also, Massena was not strict in implementing a uniform dress code. The driver was wearing black instead of a hi-vis clothing, when he was hit by the forklift. Knowingly, Massena failed to supply their employees with hi-vis clothing. Massena has no existing policy that requires exclusion zones or ensures the separation of pedestrians and forklifts.

There was no policy for operators to regularly conduct checkups before usage. During the investigation, it was found out that the reversing alarm of the forklift was no longer functioning properly even several weeks before the incident. Two weeks before, they performed maintenance works but the reversing alarm was not fully restored.

Another problem seen during the investigation was that the manager involved was inexperienced in the job. According to him, his training was not sufficient when his predecessor handed over to him the position. He did not even hold the appropriate High Risk Work Licence required to operate the forklift.

Lex McCulloch, Commissioner of WorkSafe WA, was disappointed that there are still employers who are operating with a lack of safe work procedures. The purpose of the fine is to penalize companies for non-compliance to safe work procedures.

Worksafe WA thinks that the incident served as a reminder that the operation of forklifts requires a high-risk work license. It exposed a weakness in some companies where the workers lack the adequate amount of training and experience to perform the work safely and competently.

The good thing after the incident was that Massena started to work on their faults immediately. They worked on to improve the quality of their work and the safety of their employees. They repaired the reversing alarm of the forklift. The manager worked on obtaining the licence to operate the forklift.

Topics: Prosecutions, Blog