Worksafe QLD recently reported that a Nerang poultry producer was fined $90,000 after a worker was run over by a forklift and severely injured. The forklift had its reverse warning beepers turned off each night between 7pm and 7am because of noise complaints by neighbours.

On top of this, the company had poor traffic management plans, with insufficient pedestrian walkways that we worn out and barely visible.

Despite the prior good history of the business and the steps taken since the incident, deliberately disengaging a safety feature was considered serious, with the risk of potential injury foreseeable.

To avoid injuries and fines like this at your workplace, there’s a number of steps you can take.

1. Ensure all safety features are operational.

Whether it’s lights, sounds or guarding, safety features should be left to do their job, not turned off for convenience. If the safety feature isn’t working, the vehicle should be locked/tagged out and reported to management in line with your standard safety protocols.

2. Create, implement and manage a traffic management plan.

A traffic management plan is designed to keep people and vehicles, including forklifts, away from each other as much as practical. Bollards and fencing can be a solution as a physical barrier, whilst clearly painted walkways may be suitable in other situations.

Speed limits, no-go zones, blind spots and vehicle space requirements, such as the turning circle, should all be reviewed and implemented as part of the traffic management system. Training and monitoring are a vital step in keeping the plan effective. This includes inductions for new employees, as well as re-induction for existing employees on a regular basis, or when following the traffic management plan starts falling by the wayside.

A visual check of the workplace safety marking should occur regularly and where possible, workspace layout can be redesigned to remove any bottlenecks or dangerous areas where people and vehicles need to work.

3. Complete a daily pre-start check of the forklift

Although it may seem onerous to employees, a forklift can be a dangerous piece of machinery, especially if it’s not operating properly. A daily, pre-start safety check should identify issues with signage, brakes and controls, unusual noises, flat tyres and reverse beepers, lights and horns, plus much more. If there are any issues, they should be reported to a supervisor and the forklift tagged out/key removed until resolved, in line with the relevant workplace Safe Operating Procedures.

4. Ensure all operators have a forklift licence and training.

In Queensland, forklift operators are required to have a High-Risk Work Licence (LF) and be deemed competent to operate the specific type of forklift at that workplace. Once licensed, a worker will still need specific training and induction to their workplace, for instance, working in cold rooms, or moving awkward loads. Never assume that because someone has a forklift licence that they are confident in all aspects of using a forklift. Vice versa, never assume that someone who knows how to use a forklift is appropriately licensed.

By implementing these points, along with the relevant Codes of Practice and a good attitude towards safety, you’re taking the right first steps towards improved safety around forklifts in your workplace.

For specific advice for your business, contact our workplace partners today.

*Remember, this is general advice only and does not take your circumstances into account.