Forklifts offer a practical way to lift and stack heavy loads but are also one of the most hazardous pieces of equipment found in Victorian workplaces.
More workplace injuries and deaths involve forklifts than any other type of equipment but can be avoided if employers put safety first and ensure their machinery and systems of work are fit for purpose.
In 2022, WorkSafe accepted 142 claims where the cause of injury was a forklift incident, with the transport, postal and warehousing industry accounting for the most claims (45), followed by manufacturing (35) and wholesale trade (32).
More than half of these claims were from forklift operators.
The most common incidents included pedestrians being hit by forklifts, with 26 serious injury claims accepted in 2022, and operators injured getting on and off forklifts (23 claims).
On nine occasions workers were injured by poorly secured forklift loads that fell on them, and five people were injured when forklifts tipped over.
In the past four years, eight people have died as a result of forklift incidents in the workplace, including being hit by forklift loads, falling from raised cages, and forklifts tipping over.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said it was extremely disappointing to see so many employers fail to control the well-known risks associated with forklift use.
"Even a slow-moving forklift can injure or kill yet too many employers are still failing to implement traffic management plans that separate forklifts from pedestrians with physical barriers, pedestrian exclusion zones, traffic lights and signage," Dr Beer said.
"Safe practices such as wearing correctly fitted seatbelts, using reversing cameras, adhering to load capacities and ensuring that only licenced workers operate forklifts will also reduce or eliminate risks for operators and others in the workplace."
Dr Beer warned WorkSafe had a zero tolerance approach when it came to forklift safety.
Thirty-two matters involving forklifts are currently being investigated by WorkSafe.
Nine employers are currently before the courts for alleged breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act through the unsafe use of forklifts, including a workplace manslaughter charge against the director of a stonemasonry business following the death of a sub-contractor in Somerton. He was crushed when a loaded forklift operated by the director on a sloping driveway tipped over and landed on him.
In 2022, fines totalling $697,500 were imposed by the courts against companies and directors in 11 WorkSafe prosecutions involving forklifts.
- Dingley Village stone importer Australia Rong Hua Fu Pty Ltd (RHF Stone) fined $475,000 in December after a worker was fatally crushed by stone slabs, including $100,000 for multiple safety failings with a forklift being used at the time.
- Dandenong South food service wholesaler C.C.B Enterprises Pty Ltd fined $35,000 in May after a worker was struck by a forklift suffering multiple fractures to his leg and foot.
- Australian Lamb (Colac) fined $55,000 in March after an elevated forklift load fell at the abattoir and hit a worker, knocking him unconscious and breaking a bone in his spine.
- Delacombe brick manufacturer Enviroflame Firelogs (Australia) Pty Ltd and its director were fined a combined $47,500 in January after the director reversed a forklift into a worker.