WorkCover NSW is urging all businesses and workers to take extreme care while using forklifts.

This follows a number of recent serious incidents where workers have had forklift loads fall on to them.

This has led the General Manager of WorkCover’s Work Health and Safety Division, John Watson, to remind businesses and workers to ensure they take adequate safety precautions when working with and around forklifts and pedestrians.

“Incidents involving forklifts are avoidable and constant attention must be paid when working with and around them,” Mr Watson said.

“During 2010 974 workers were injured in incidents involving forklifts.

“On Sunday 11 March a 42 year old male worker was killed at an engineering plant at Muswellbrook in the NSW Upper Hunter when a load being carried on a forklift is reported to have fallen onto them.

“While the incident on Sunday is tragic and the number of injured workers a concern, what’s also alarming is that more than 4,000 hours were lost at a cost of more than $10 million to the NSW economy.

“We want all workers to return home safely to their families at the end of the working day.

“Don’t wait until there’s an injury or death at your workplace before developing safe work systems.”

Mr Watson said there were a number of actions businesses and workers could take to improve safety when working on and around forklifts.

“Before lifting a load, the weight, size, shape and composition of a load should be considered, along with the terrain that the forklift will be travelling over,” he said.

“Additionally, the suitability of the forklift to handle and transport the load should be assessed.

“Loads must only be lifted, carried and stored in a manner that ensures stability at all times.

“Only purpose made lifting and handling attachments sanctioned by the manufacturer should be used.

“Loads must never be lifted over people. Where loads are slung from an approved jib attachment, appropriate systems to control the movement of the load while it is being transported should be in place.

“When carrying loads avoid sudden or heavy braking that could cause the load to slide forward.”

Other safety procedures recommended by WorkCover NSW include:

  • plan for the task and ensuring the right equipment is being used for the load;
  • correctly maintain forklifts and operate them in accordance with the designer’s and manufacturer’s instructions; and
  • ensure forklift operators are correctly licensed and have completed training for the particular forklift

“It’s clear that the cost of a workplace injury is far greater than the cost of implementing an effective work health and safety system and that’s why we’re urging businesses to review their load handling and transportation safe work method statements to ensure they have systems in place for the safety of forklift operators and pedestrians,” Mr Watson added.

WorkCover is conducting a thorough and comprehensive investigation into Sunday’s fatal incident and will prepare a report for the Coroner.

WorkCover recently published the Working with Forklifts Safety Alert. The safety alert and other information on forklift safety can be found on the WorkCover website or by calling 13 10 50 for more information.