Abattoir fined $55,000 after worker hit by forklift load

A meat processor has been fined after a worker was injured in a forklift incident at a Colac abattoir in 2019.
News article published

Tuesday 15 Mar 2022

Industries and topics
  • Forklifts
  • Plant hazards

Australian Lamb (Colac) Pty Ltd was sentenced in the Colac Magistrates' Court today after earlier pleading guilty to two charges of failing, so far as was reasonably practicable, to provide and maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to health.

The company was fined $55,000 without conviction.

The court heard that in October 2019, the injured worker was standing at a sorting table in an area of the workplace known as the skin shed, while another worker was operating a forklift nearby.

The forklift driver was elevating a load of sheep skins 4-5 metres high into a drum for salting when the 500-600 kilogram metal basket slipped and fell to the ground, clipping the worker.

He was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital with a broken bone in his spine and damage to a shoulder muscle.

WorkSafe found that there was inadequate information, training and supervision given to workers to ensure they kept a safe distance from elevated loads.

The court heard there was also no formal traffic management plan in place for the skin shed, and no mechanism was provided to secure the metal basket to the forklift.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said employers must do everything they can to ensure safe work processes, especially when forklifts are involved.

"Forklifts are among the biggest causes of workplace injuries and deaths in Victorian workplaces," Dr Beer said. "Even an incident involving a slow-moving forklift can have serious consequences."

"WorkSafe won’t hesitate to prosecute businesses who fail to eliminate the well-known risk of powered mobile plant colliding with pedestrians and other machinery."

Employers using mobile plant such as forklifts 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 and regularly inspected and maintained by a suitably qualified person.
  • Employees and health and safety representatives are consulted about health and safety issues.