National packing company Visy has been prosecuted and ordered to pay $112,500 to Melbourne University‘s Marie Tehan Medical Fund after a worker was struck by a forklift.
WorkSafe Victoria is warning Victorian workplaces to “lift their game on traffic management” following the prosecution.
The case took place at Wodonga Magistrates’ Court, during which Visy Packaging Pty Ltd was convicted and placed on an adjourned undertaking for 12 months. As a special condition, the company was ordered to pay $112,500 to Melbourne University‘s Marie Tehan Medical Fund.
The incident occurred in December 2008 when a female employee was walking through Visy’s Wodonga manufacturing warehouse. She stopped at a crossroads, saw an approaching forklift, and thought the driver was signalling that it was safe for her to cross.
When she stepped forward, she was struck by a second forklift which was approaching from another direction.
As a result of the collision, the woman suffered serious injuries to her leg requiring hospitalisation and skin grafts.
The prosecution comes only two months after national company Swire Cold Storage was convicted and fined following an incident where a forklift was driven into the path of a worker operating a pallet mover.
“On average, three people are seriously injured by forklifts every week in Victorian workplaces, a totally unacceptable situation,” WorkSafe’s manufacturing and logistics director Ross Pilkington said.
“Many of these injuries are due to lack of separation between forklifts and workers.
“WorkSafe inspectors can’t monitor every workplace 24 hours a day – Victorian workplaces need to get the message that people and forklifts don’t mix, and it’s up to employers to make sure they’re separated.”
After the incident, WorkSafe inspectors issued prohibition and improvement notices, requiring the company to eliminate the risk of collision between pedestrians and forklifts.
“Despite years of communicating the message that people and forklifts don’t mix, workplace behaviour does not reflect the fact that these machines can seriously hurt or kill if they hit someone – regardless of the speed at which they travel,” said Pilkington.
“In this case, we’re talking about a workplace with a production area and two warehouses where forklifts are operating. There were no physical barriers or marked walkways separating forklifts from pedestrians – instead, they were told to communicate with eye contact and hand signals.
“Visy clearly failed in their duty to keep their workers safe – this was an entirely avoidable incident for which should never have happened.”