Farm fined $80,000 following forklift incident

A Gippsland vegetable farm has been convicted and fined $80,000 after a contractor was struck by a forklift.


Covino Farms Pty Ltd pleaded guilty in the Sale Magistrates' Court on Friday to failing to ensure, as far as reasonably practicable, that the workplace was without risks to health and safety.

The company was also ordered to pay $4573 in costs.

The court heard that in December 2016, the 50-year-old contractor was walking along a corridor at the company's Longford site when she was struck from behind by a forklift carrying crates of lettuce.

The contractor was required to use the same corridor as forklifts to access a nearby room.

She was treated for a dislocated shoulder, fractured pelvis, bruising and scarring, and has been unable to continue working in her role.

Covino Farms has since painted crossings and provided pedestrians with an alternative walkway to separate them from forklifts.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen said it was unacceptable for workplaces to ignore the extreme dangers moving machinery such as forklifts can pose to pedestrians.

"Forklifts and pedestrian workers should be able to safely co-exist where reasonably practicable control measures are in place, however when they are not the consequences are often severe," she said.

"A traffic management plan, which includes the physical separation of forklifts and people is essential and in this case, would have avoided a worker receiving debilitating injuries."

"Like all workers, contractors have every right to return home safely at the end of the day, so employers must ensure they are provided with a safe working environment."

Covino Farms has previously been fined $15,000, after an employee stepped into an open drain base, and $70,000 after an employee was run over by a spinach seeder. Both incidents occurred in 2015.

Employers using forklifts should ensure:

  • All workers receive appropriate induction and training on the work they are to be involved in, and that a register of training and induction is maintained on file.
  • A traffic management plan is in place for pedestrians and powered mobile plant and that it is reviewed and updated as appropriate.
  • Pedestrians are separated from moving machinery and that an effective communication system between operators, transport contractors and ground staff is in place.
  • Signage is in place and barriers are erected where appropriate.
  • Identify and control visibility issues, particularly if lighting is poor.
  • Workers operating equipment where a High Risk License is required, such as a forklift, hold a current license.
  • If undertaking training, a person should actively be supervised by a person who holds a current license.
  • Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained, by a suitably qualified person.