In September 2018, a forklift operator's lower leg was amputated when the forklift he was driving struck a bollard. Initial investigations suggest he was driving the forklift around a corner of a packing hall onto an exit ramp and his foot may have been outside of the manufacturer's designated operating position. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Forklifts are one of the most hazardous workplace vehicles and are frequently found in warehouses, workshops and factories. People working with or around them often become complacent because they are quiet, in frequent use and part of the environment. However, incidents involving forklifts are usually serious and often fatal.
- forklifts are operated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions
- operators hold a current high risk work licence to operate the forklift
- operators wear a seatbelt and do not place body parts outside of the forklift or reach through the mast while it is operating
- passengers are not carried on the forklift unless it is designed to carry more than one person and a designated passenger seat, seatbelt and foot rest is provided
- operators are properly trained and supervised on the specific traffic management plan for the workplace.
Whenever mobile plant such as a forklift is used in a workplace, a traffic management plan must be implemented to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians. Wherever possible, physical barriers such as bollards or railed walkways should be installed to separate pedestrians and forklifts. Consider:
- the physical environment, such as lighting, road surfaces, ventilation and weather
- traffic destination, flow, volume and priorities
- forklift stopping distances, turning (tail swing) and operator blind spots
- forklift characteristics, such as stability and attachments
- load characteristics, such as height, width and type.
The traffic management plan should also ensure:
- it is clear to forklift operators and workers who has right of way
- any no-go zones for forklifts or pedestrians are clearly isolated and marked
- if high visibility vests are required, they are readily available to staff and visitors
- pedestrian floor markings are highly visible and not faded
- speed limits are clearly signed and followed
- traffic directions, such as 'stop' and 'one way', are clearly signed and followed.
Before operating a forklift, the operator should:
- complete a pre-operational check by following the manufacturer's instructions in the forklift manual
- report any damage or problems to your supervisor immediately
- follow the manufacturer's or employer's maintenance procedures
- remove the key and tag out unsafe forklifts to prevent unauthorised use.
More information on traffic management plans and forklift safety can be found in the links below.
Since 2012 there has been an average of 430 accepted workers' compensation claims for injuries involving forklifts each year. Forty per cent of these involve serious injuries with five or more days off work. The most common injury mechanism involving forklifts is sprains and strains from sitting, or getting in or out of the forklift. The next most common mechanism is being hit by a forklift or its load.
During the same period, WHSQ has been notified of 138 incidents involving workers or bystanders being struck by, run over or trapped by a forklift.
Prosecutions and compliance
In December 2016, a company was fined $35,000 after a worker was crushed by a pallet being moved by a forklift. The worker was kneeling down to remove a product from another pallet when he was struck, resulting in broken ribs. The defendant was prosecuted for failing to monitor adequate traffic management procedures for moving plant and pedestrians.
In August 2013, a large truck manufacturing business was fined $35,000 after a forklift reversed into a worker resulting in multiple fractures to his lower left leg. The magistrate also imposed a recognisance of $50,000 for one year.
- Forklift safety for workers (PDF, 0.38 MB)
- Forklift safety for employers: maintenance (PDF, 0.35 MB)
- Forklift safety for employers: traffic management (PDF, 0.53 MB)
- Managing risks of plant in the workplace code of practice 2021 (PDF, 1.57 MB)
- How to manage work health and safety risks code of practice 2021 (PDF, 0.65 MB)
- Traffic management – information sheet
- Traffic management guide – general
- Traffic management guide – warehousing