Employee dies after overhanging items fall from storage racking

WorkSafe is issuing a safety alert to highlight the dangers of overhanging items in storage racking, following the death of an employee.
Safety alert published

Thursday 11 Mar 2021

Industries and topics
  • Transport, logistics and warehousing
  • Forklifts
  • Plant hazards

Background

The operator of a reach forklift was fatally injured when the forklift struck items that were stored at height and overhanging the aisle, causing the items to fall and strike the operator on the head.

Safety issues

Items stored in storage racking should not be overhanging. In the event that a forklift strikes overhanging items, the items could become dislodged or unstable, putting employees at risk of serious or fatal injuries due to falling items.

Recommended ways to control risks

  • Any storage racking used in the workplace should be designed specifically for the size, shape, and weight of the items being stored.
  • The layout of racking and storage of items on/in the racking should be compatible with the material handling equipment used in the workplace. For example, aisle width should match the turning circle of the forklift used for picking and replenishment.
  • Items stored should be contained within the parameters of the racking.
  • Ensure items being stored are secured appropriately to avoid collapse.

Under the Australian Standard AS4084 2012 (Steel storage racking), it is mandatory for all businesses to have their racking inspected at least once every 12 months, regardless of size, working loads or traffic. This also provides the opportunity to check the contents and ensure the safe and stable storage of all items.

Compliance may be achieved by, but is not limited to:

  • providing safe system of upright storage which includes no items being stored that protrude or project in a way that they may come into contact with powered mobile plant
  • providing a fixed physical barrier to prevent any powered mobile plant or pedestrians being able to travel underneath or in close proximity of overhanging items
  • fitting forklifts with an operator protective device (falling object protective structure) to protect the operator in the event of items falling from overhead storage racks

Legal duties

Employers have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, which include that they must, so far as is reasonably practicable:

  • provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors
  • provide or maintain plant or systems of work that are safe and without risks to health
  • provide employees with the necessary information, instruction, training or supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • ensure that people other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the employer's conduct

Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of their undertaking.