Potato farm fined over worker death

Oakville Produce’s potato farm has received a $187,500 fine after a truck driver was killed by a forklift in December 2013.

The company was charged with a breach of duty under the Work Health and Safety Act for failing to have a traffic management plan and equipping a forklift with inadequate visibility.

The 57 year old truck driver, along with a forklift driver and harvest supervisor, had been working at the potato farm at the time.

The truck driver and harvest supervisor were discussing work arrangements for the rest of the day when the forklift driver collected two empty bins from the trailer on the truck driver’s truck.

As the truck driver and harvest supervisor walked toward another truck for harvesting, the forklift driver reversed his forklift, which had a blind spot, and struck the two; killing the truck driver. The supervisor managed to escape unharmed.

Peter Dunphy, executive director of SafeWork NSW said the incident could have been prevented if adequate traffic management plans had been enforced.

“Forklifts are a major cause of death and injury in NSW workplaces,” he said.

He added that the best way to prevent accidents was to separate pedestrians and forklifts with barriers, and have a traffic management plan with rules about how and where vehicles should be operated.

“In this particular incident, Oakville Produce did not have a traffic management plan for the loading and unloading of forklifts in bin bay areas,” Dunphy said.

“They also failed to provide a forklift without blind spots or sufficient mirrors that addressed blind spots.

“This incident serves as a reminder to the agriculture industry of the importance of effective traffic management systems and I urge all agriculture businesses to develop one before there is a pedestrian injury or death at their workplace.”

Dunphy also said between July 2012 and July 2014, around 1,360 workers were injured in forklift incidents, including five fatalities, with a total cost of $15.8 million to the NSW workers compensation scheme.





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