A poultry contractor was convicted and fined $1.13m on September 11, 2017 over an incident in which a man was struck and killed by a forklift on a farm at Lethbridge, near Geelong in 2015.
CK Crouch was found guilty in the Geelong Magistrate’s Court of three breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 – two charges of failing to provide or maintain safe systems of work and one charge of failing to provide information, instruction and training to employees and was ordered to pay $3200 in costs.
The company was contracted by Baiada Poultry to catch and load live chickens from various farms, including a chicken farm at Lethbridge, about 30km north-west of Geelong.
The court heard that on November 30, 2015 workers attended the Lethbridge farm to catch and load chickens. According to reports, the workers would herd the chickens to one or both sides of the shed, before dimming the shed lights to reduce the stress to the animals.
Cages would then be brought into the shed by forklift and workers would fill them. The forklift would then carry the cage outside to the waiting transport.
At about 11pm, a forklift carrying a full cage of chickens was moving through the shed at about 5km/h when it struck a worker as he was picking up a chicken.
The 41-year-old man, who was wearing dark clothing, suffered serious chest, spine and pelvis injuries and died at the scene.
The court heard that there was a risk of serious injury or death to employees working near a moving forklift in near dark conditions.
The company had two written work procedures for catching and manually loading live chickens into cages and safety around workers and forklifts. The procedure for the separation of the forklift from workers was illustrated in a safety diagram.
However, the court heard that employees were not aware of these procedures, and had not been provided with information, instruction or training about the safe working procedures around forklifts. It was also found that the forklift driver had not been inducted into the safety procedures.
During Work Safe Victoria’s investigation, the company was unable to produce records of any employees receiving induction or any other training in these procedures. In addition, employees were not provided with or required to wear reflective clothing during the chicken catching and loading process.
Work Safe Victoria’s executive director Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the tragedy could have been prevented had the company followed proper safety practices.
“This company had safety procedures written down and even illustrated in a diagram, but they weren’t worth the paper they were on because they’d provided none of the information or training to their employees,” Williams said.
“Tragically it cost a man his life and a family their loved one.”
Williams said operating a forklift in a dimly lit environment close to workers was a recipe for disaster.
“To be operating a forklift late at night with the shed illuminated by a single row of dim blue lights during the catching and loading process, and with no requirement for workers to wear hi-vis vests is just a staggering departure from safe working practices,” Williams said.
“Forklifts are an important piece of machinery but they are incredibly dangerous if they are not used appropriately.”
Williams also said employers had a responsibility to provide a safe working environment and this included providing appropriate instruction and training to workers.
“Appropriate traffic management is a basic safety measure that should be a priority in every workplace where machinery or vehicles are being used,” Williams said adding that having it written down is not enough and safe procedures must be put into practice.”
Image sourced from Flickr cc: Dimplemonkey