The following is an abridgement of a safety alert originally published on the NT WorkSafe website.
NT WorkSafe has issued a safety alert highlighting the risk of serious injury or death when using a forklift, especially when exclusion zones are not maintained around operating forklifts.
Worker almost crushed to death by forklift load
Last year, a worker in Darwin was severely injured when a bundle of steel weighing over 1.2 tonnes slipped from a forklift and crushed him. The injured worker, who was a subcontractor, was acting as a spotter and standing on the opposite side of the trailer from the forklift, when a load slipped from the forklift tynes ('forks') as it was being lowered. The worker survived the incident but suffered multiple fractures and spent two months in hospital.
Why did it happen?
The risk factors that may have contributed to this incident are that:
- The steel bundle was an awkward load, measuring approximately six meters in length, almost one meter in width and over 1.2 tonnes in weight. The bundle was also wrapped in plastic.
- The load was being lifted directly on the tynes (no pallet used) and the plastic wrap may have caused less friction between the load and the metal tynes.
- The forklift mast may have been tilted forward when the load was lowered, causing it to slip from the tynes.
- The forklift operator may have lost sight of the spotter, who had moved to stand near the load as it was being lowered.
How to prevent crushing incidents:
- Conduct a risk assessment before using a forklift and identify the hazards and controls.
- Consider safer methods to lift and load awkward or slippery loads, such as using a jib attachment or another item of plant.
- Develop and document safe work procedures and make them available to all workers and sub-contractors.
- Check the forklift and its controls before and during operation. If there is any damage or problem, isolate the forklift and arrange for repair or service.
- Restrain loads that can slip, fall or roll off the forklift tynes or pallet.
- Establish a system of communication between the forklift operator, the spotter and other workers. Do not approach the forklift unless the operator has signalled that it is safe. If the operator loses sight of the worker, stop the operation until visual contact is re-established. Do not stand under or near a raised load.
- Obtain a licence to perform high risk work from NT WorkSafe or another Australian Work Health and Safety Regulator. Do not operate a forklift without a licence or with an expired licence.
NT WorkSafe has a Forklift safety – reducing the risks guide and a Forklift operation - Licence requirements guide for more information.
Safety alert issued after worker almost crushed to death by forklift load by NT WorkSafe, 12th January, 2024.