Workers fatally injured by forklifts

WorkSafe is issuing a reminder about the risks associated with forklift use, and the need to separate forklifts and pedestrians following two recent fatalities.
Safety alert published

Thursday 21 Oct 2021

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  • Automotive
  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
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Background

Tragically, two workers have recently died in separate forklift incidents.

A 25-year-old worker was killed when standing near a forklift being driven on a sloping driveway. The forklift tipped over, crushing the worker.

In a second forklift incident a 49-year-old worker was fatally injured when a large unstable load fell off the fork arms (tynes) onto him.

Safety issues

Pedestrians and forklifts don't mix.

Pedestrians make up almost half of all people injured by forklifts. The most common forklift-related injury sustained by pedestrians is crushing.

Pedestrians have also lost their lives or sustained traumatic injury when walking across forklift travel paths, doorways or from behind palletised goods or being hit by objects falling:

  • during the loading and unloading of trucks
  • from an unstable load handled by a forklift
  • from forklifts carrying long, awkward shaped and unbalanced loads

Recommended ways to control risk

Forklifts are a hazard and, where reasonably practicable, should be eliminated from the workplace, or substituted with other suitable load shifting equipment. If this is not reasonably practicable, the risks associated with using forklifts must be reduced, using engineering or administrative controls, such as traffic management plans (TMPs).

Once risk controls are in place they must be regularly reviewed, especially when an incident occurs or there is a change in work practices, and revised where necessary in line with regulation 121 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations).

Traffic management plans

TMPs are the key to separating forklifts from pedestrians, including truck drivers. Safety of pedestrians is one of the most important aspects of a workplace TMP.

A TMP should be developed in consultation with employees and Health and Safety Representatives (if any) and documented for each individual workplace.

An effective TMP can include a range of controls, including:

  • pedestrian and forklift exclusion zones
  • reduced speed limiting devices (smart forklifts)
  • halos
  • signage

Everyone at the workplace, including visitors, must be advised of the site's TMP.

Pedestrian exclusion and forklift exclusion zones

Pedestrian and forklift exclusion zones can incorporate:

  • safety zones for truck drivers
  • fixed safety barriers
  • inward opening gates at pedestrian crossings
  • containment fences
  • clearly marked aisle ways, travel paths and pedestrian crossings

If separation by fixed barriers is not reasonably practicable, ensure pedestrians stay outside the advised three metre exclusion zone and do not interact with the load during forklift operations.

A three meter exclusion zone is the recommended minimum distance pedestrians should maintain from a forklift which is travelling at walking pace with a load at axel height.  Where loads are raised, the height of the load including mast plus an additional three meters should be applied. For example, where mast and load measure four meters high, a minimum of seven metre exclusion should be applied.

The following must be considered when introducing pedestrian exclusion and forklift exclusion zones:

  • forklift movements and frequency of interaction
  • braking distance
  • stability
  • environment
  • height of load
  • type of load being handled
  • attachments
  • blind spots

Legal duties

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, employers 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 and their employees
  • ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the employer's undertaking
  • so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain plant that is safe and without risks to the health of employees and independent contractors and their employees
  • provide employees and independent contractors and their employees with the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to enable them to do their work in a way that is safe and without risks to health
  • so far as is reasonably practicable, consult with employees, independent contractors and their employees, and health and safety representatives when identifying or assessing hazards or risks and making decisions about risk control measures

Under the OHS Regulations, employers and self-employed persons must:

  • identify all hazards associated with the use of plant at the workplace, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • control risks associated with plant so far as is reasonably practicable in accordance with the plant hierarchy of control
  • ensure plant is inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that risks associated with its use are monitored

For further information on the plant hierarchy of control see the WorkSafe Plant Compliance Code.

Further information