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January 2020

Failure to provide safe system of work to forklift loaders

Failure to provide safe system of work to forklift loaders

Worksafe Victoria v AGFAB Engineering Pty Ltd (2017)

Facts

On 4 April 2015, AGFAB Engineering Pty Ltd (the Company) – a general engineering, electrical, maintenance and project management company – was concluding work at a client’s site in Port Melbourne. Three of the Company’s workers unsuccessfully attempted to load a forklift onto the back of a tilt tray truck. The fourth member of the Company’s crew – the supervisor – was attending to another area of the workplace.

The first worker drove the forklift onto the inclined tray, holding down the throttle as far as it would go, while the second pushed the forklift from behind and the third levelled off the tray. However, the forklift rolled back off the truck and the first two workers jumped to safety, with all avoiding injury.

The workers did not use the winch in the truck’s tray, which was obscured by other equipment.

Judgment

The Court heard evidence that all four workers had signed a safe work method statement (SWMS), which was in place for the task of loading the truck at the end of the day. However, the SWMS did not state that:

  • the winch of the truck was not to be obscured;
  • the winch was to be used to secure the forklift while loading it; nor
  • the forklift ought to be restrained prior to lifting the tray of the truck.

A separate, pre-incident risk assessment document contemplated these risk controls, but only the supervisor, who was absent during the incident, was aware of it.

The Court found that the Company failed to provide a safe system of work for its workers. The Company pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of $25,000 and costs of $15,501. No conviction was recorded.

Lessons

This case emphasises the need to fully educate your workers on the risks associated with particular tasks. While a supervisor should ensure compliance with any risk management procedures, all employees should be made aware of those procedures in case a supervisor is absent.

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