Swire Cold Storage has been prosecuted after a worker was hit by a forklift at the company’s Clayton-based warehouse.
According to WorkSafe Victoria, a forklift was driven in to the path of a worker operating a pallet mover, causing the worker to be struck in the left leg by the slip sheet attachment on the forklift.
The worker suffered breaks to both bones in his lower left leg above the ankle, and an open wound.
The Moorabbin Magistrates Court convicted Swire Cold Storage Pty Ltd – part of the global Swire Group which includes Cathay Pacific and Swire Pacific – on two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 last week. The company was fined a total of $60,000, WorkSafe Victoria said.
“The inspector who attended the scene noticed straight away that although there were marked walkways for pedestrians, they weren’t being used,” WorkSafe’s manufacturing and logistics director Ross Pilkington said.
“Forklifts and other mobile plant were actually being driven through the walkways – putting workers and others at risk of serious injury, or even death.”
Following the incident, WorkSafe issued prohibition notices preventing the use of the plant involved in the incident until it was made safe; and an improvement notice which required the workplace to put a system in place to separate mobile plant from pedestrians and other mobile plant.
“On average, three people are seriously injured by forklifts every week in Victorian workplaces. These injuries are primarily due to being hit by a forklift, or being hit by loads falling from a forklift,” Pilkington said.
“Despite years of communicating the message that people and forklifts don’t mix, workplace behaviour does not reflect the fact that these machines will seriously hurt or kill if they hit someone – regardless of the speed at which they travel.
“Workplaces need to go beyond drawing lines on the ground, and physically separate people from forklift operations.
“This needs to be achieved either by scheduling forklift operations at distinct times so that no people are in the vicinity at the same time, or by installing physical barriers or providing exclusion zones in areas where forklifts operate.
“People don’t seem to realise that if you’re working in close proximity to a forklift, you are at serious risk. Just as you wouldn’t work on the road in the middle of a freeway without having some very distinct physical separation in place, so too should you not work with forklifts unless there is a significant physical separation.”