An employee at a Victorian workplace has fallen from a telehandler man-cage attached to a telehandler while completing maintenance on a conveyor gearbox. The employee was raised in the cage above 7 metres and was attempting to remove the gearbox cover by hitting it with a sledge hammer. The momentum from swinging the sledgehammer caused him to lose his balance and he fell from the cage.
Emergency services transferred him to hospital. He avoided being seriously injured. WorkSafe inspectors and investigators visited the workplace on the day of the incident. Following WorkSafe’s investigation, the employer was prosecuted and sentenced, without conviction, to pay a fine of $25,000 with costs of $3,505.
The safety risks
WorkSafe’s enquiries into this incident identified the following as potential contributors to this incident:
- failing to wear fall protection equipment such as a fall arrest system
- a lack of experience and training to operate a telehandler
- failing to inspect and verify a load rating for the site-fabricated cage attachment
- not having information plates or certification of load capacity on the attachment
- no documented risk assessment before the employee started the job
- no safe operating procedures for working at heights
Ways to manage health and safety
Employers are responsible for controlling health and safety risks in the workplace. This includes eliminating risks where it is reasonable and possible to do so. It also includes providing employees with enough information, instruction, training or supervision to do their work safely.
Employers are also required to identify and control risks associated with a fall at the workplace. If a risk cannot be eliminated, it must be reduced as much as possible.
Before using telehandler man-cages, employers should:
- Inspect and verify the load rating for the attachment to ensure it is suitable for the load being lifted and within the safe working limits of the telehandler.
- Fit information plates to telehandler attachments that mark compliance with Australian Standards. This verifies the attachment’s compatibility with the telehandler, including load capacity and safe working limit. Documentation such as stability and structural test results should be available to confirm the compliance.
- Ensure telehandler operators are trained based on the telehandler’s configuration and capacity. Some telehandlers may require the operator to have a High Risk Work Licence. A record of this training should be kept.
- Provide safety harnesses that will arrest a fall for operators working at heights, ensuring this equipment has an updated certification and is regularly inspected and maintained.
- Do a risk assessment and document this for work at heights where there is a fall risk of more than 2 metres. Examples of ways to document this include using a safe work method statement, safe operating procedure or job safety analysis.