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Machinery and equipment

Many small businesses use some form of machinery and equipment (commonly referred to as plant). It may be large, fixed machinery or handheld tools.

When any type of machinery or equipment is unsafe, things can go wrong and lead to serious injury or death.

Injuries from unsafe machinery and equipment include amputation, crushing, electric shock, burns or being struck by ejected items.

Employees can also receive fractures if they fall when accessing, operating or maintaining machinery and equipment.

Non-mechanical hazards include harmful emissions, contained liquids or gas under pressure, chemicals, electricity and noise.

Getting started

  • Train and supervise employees to only use machinery and equipment for the job it was designed. Refer to manufacturer/supplier's instructions for further information.
  • Ensure machinery and equipment is fitted with guards, fences, barriers or interlocked gates so moving parts cannot be touched and employees cannot be struck by ejected items.
  • Install and maintain presence sensing systems such as light curtains or pressure sensors so machinery will stop automatically if a person comes into contact with it.
  • Ensure pre-operation checks are carried out on interlocking and emergency systems.
  • Use isolation procedures such as lock out devices when clearing blockages or servicing and maintaining machinery and equipment. Ensure guards are in the correct place after any repair or maintenance is done.
  • Make sure machinery and equipment is maintained by competent people. Refer to the manufacturer/supplier's instructions for further information.
  • Use extraction and local exhaust ventilation systems to control dust, heat and fumes from machinery and equipment.
  • Use fixed, permanent, temporary or mobile work platforms to access high areas of machinery or equipment.

View WorkSafe's guidance, Machinery and equipment – an introduction and Planning for safer plant operations.

Forklifts and mobile plant

Forklifts cause more workplace deaths and injuries than any other piece of plant. Pedestrians can be hit by loads or crushed by forklifts, even when forklifts are moving very slowly.

Forklift operators can be crushed if the forklift overturns. Overloaded forklifts, forklifts with raised tynes or forklifts that are moving too fast are also likely to tip or lose their loads.

Operators can be seriously injured if they slip or fall while getting on and off forklifts.

Back and neck strain can occur when continually driving in reverse. Back strain can also occur when driving on uneven surfaces or if the forklift seat is damaged.

Getting started

  • Check the forklift daily before it is used to make sure the brakes, tyres, fluids, horn, lights and reversing beepers work, and that the seat, forks and operator controls are not damaged.
  • Ensure forklifts are regularly maintained.
  • Forklift operators must have a current licence.
  • Display a load chart that says how much the forklift can carry and do not exceed capacity.
  • Ensure forklift operators use seatbelts.
  • Develop a traffic management plan.
  • Separate pedestrians and truck drivers from forklifts or visiting vehicles.
  • Use physical barriers where possible and mark pedestrian walkways.
  • Ensure forklift operators observe speed limits and other traffic.

View WorkSafe's information on forklifts or guidance, Forklift safety – Reducing the risk, Powered mobile plant, Forklift safety checklist, Forklifts – Developing a traffic management plan

Air receivers

Air receivers are tanks that store compressed air for use with a compressed air system. They are common in many small businesses. If an air receiver fails or explodes, it can cause multiple fatalities.

  • Air receivers with hazard levels of A, B or C must be registered with WorkSafe.
  • Ensure that the air receiver is secured to the ground.
  • Ensure the compressor drive belt is guarded to prevent access to moving parts.
  • Ensure blowdown (drainage) is carried out on regular basis to prevent condensation build up inside the receiver.
  • Ensure no flammable substances are stored in the vicinity of the air compressor.
  • Ensure air receivers are regularly inspected and maintained by a competent person and keep a record of all inspections and maintenance.

View WorkSafe's guidance, Working safely with air receivers


Boilers are enclosed vessels where hot water is heated and steam is generated. They are common in many small businesses especially in dry cleaners and in launderettes.

  • Ensure boilers are regularly inspected and maintained by a competent person.
  • Keep records of all inspections and maintenance.
  • Ensure all hot surfaces, including piping, are insulated and/or guarded.
  • Ensure pre-operation check is carried out.
  • Ensure blowdown is carried out on regular basis as instructed by boiler service personnel.
  • Ensure no flammable substances are stored in the vicinity of the boiler.
  • Ensure trained and competent personnel operate the boiler.