Abattoir operator fined $90,000 following forklift crush

A Warrnambool meat processor has been convicted and fined $90,000 after a worker was hit by a forklift in 2019.


Midfield Meat International pleaded guilty in the Warrnambool Magistrates' Court on Thursday for failing to ensure persons other than employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.

The company was also ordered to pay costs of $2000.

The court heard that on 20 March 2019, a labour hire worker was hit by a reversing forklift as he was stacking cardboard sheets against a wall.

The worker's legs were crushed between the forklift and a steel barrier. He was taken to hospital and suffered nerve damage to his lower legs.

A WorkSafe investigation found that although there was a traffic management plan in place, pedestrian workers regularly worked within the forklift operating zone despite the clear risk of collision.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Julie Nielsen there was no excuse for failing to separate workers and mobile plant.

"This incident should serve as a wake-up call to this company and to others that it is simply unacceptable for pedestrians and mobile plant to mix," Ms Nielsen said.

"It is vital that employers have appropriate traffic management plans in place and enforce them including, if necessary, physical barriers such as bollards and chains to keep mobile plant and pedestrians at a safe distance."

Employers using mobile plant should ensure:

  • 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.
  • Visibility issues are identified and controlled, particularly if lighting is poor.
  • Workers operating equipment have the appropriate high risk work licences, as required.
  • Machinery and vehicles are regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person.
  • Employees and health and safety representatives are consulted about health and safety issues.