Pair of forklift flips has NT WorkSafe on edge

Watchdog issues warning over use on variable surfaces

Pair of forklift flips has NT WorkSafe on edge
Travelling with a raised load weighing above the forklifts rated capacity increases the risk of tipping, NT WorkSafe emphasises


Two forklift accidents in the Northern Territory have spurred the government work safety organisation to warn owner, users and those likely to be in proximity of the risks such vehicles pose.

In particular, NT WorkSafe highlights operating the vehicles on uneven ground with elevated heavy and large dimension loads.

It is also seeking to reinforce the use of well-established ways to minimise the risk of injury from tipping over.

NT WorkSafe inspectors have responded to two forklift tip over incidents within two weeks, in Darwin.

The first incident occurred in late March, when an unlicensed operator was reversing a forklift along a rough dirt driveway carrying a trailer frame.

The forklift was reversing with the tines raised at the top of the mast when the forklift tipped over onto its side," the organisation says. 

"The operator received a serious laceration to their arm that required 32 stitches.

The second incident occurred in early April, when a recently licensed and inexperienced forklift operator attempted to unload a 40-foot shipping container from a vessel.

"The shipping container had to be elevated to clear the vessel’s bow as the forklift reversed down the bow ramp," the organisation says. 

"As the forklift attempted to reverse up the boat ramp, the 37 tonne forklift tipped forward damaging the vessel, shipping container and forklift. Fortunately the operator escaped without injury."

NT WorkSafe has previously issued a trick fire warning, here

NT WorkSafe observes that the forklifts were travelling on uneven ground or a slope when control was lost, and were travelling with the loads lifted high, which can affect stability.

The loads themselves may have been contributory factors.

"In the first incident, the trailer frame was not secured and was able to swing on the tines," it says

"In the second incident, the aftermarket weighing system fitted to the forklift did not register a reading when the shipping container was lifted.

"During the retrieval process, the shipping container and its contents was found to have exceeded the forklifts rated capacity."

It makes the following recommendations:

  • Operators must hold the appropriate high risk work licence before operating a forklift and inexperienced operators should be appropriately supervised
  • Operators must wear the seatbelt (if fitted). Seatbelts can be retrofitted to forklifts without them
  • Before moving a load, the operator should check that the load is secured and the weight is within the forklifts rated capacity
  • Businesses must ensure that all aftermarket equipment installed is suitable for the task at hand, and all operators are competent in using the installed equipment
  • Operators should be aware that when a load is raised, the forklift is less stable  – tilting forwards or backwards with a raised load will also affect the forklifts stability
  • Operators should avoid travelling with a raised load, as this makes the forklift less stable and leads to tipping over, particularly if the forklift is travelling at speed, around a corner, or on an uneven surface
  • Loads should be lowered just above the ground with the mast tilted back before moving
  • When operating the forklift on an incline, the load must be tilted back and raised only as far as needed to clear the ground. The load must be facing up the incline. Do not try to turn on an incline.
  • If the work environment is not safe to properly operate a forklift, consider using alternative equipment to move the load.

WorkSafe inspectors have begun a forklift safety campaign, focusing on businesses that supply materials to the construction industry.

This month, inspectors will be providing these businesses and other duty holders with information and advice on the hazards and safe use of forklifts.

Next month, workplace inspectors will return to monitor compliance with the safe management and use of forklifts.

Inspectors will check points including safe systems of work, forklift operator licences and forklift maintenance logs, among other things.


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