Fine over needless forklift death?

10/12/2014 09:21

The needless death of a forklift driver points out how essential it is that businesses ensure they maintain all machinery, plant and equipment in a safe condition and take immediate action to remedy faults when identified. 

9 December 2014

Whangarei based Kiwi Timber Protection Limited has been fined $45,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $60,000 (on top of $34,040 already paid voluntarily) after one of its employees was killed when the forklift he was driving tipped over.

Mill hand Mark Blincoe died in February this year after a forklift he was driving rolled backwards down a driveway hit a pile of steel and toppled over. Mr Blincoe was thrown out of the vehicle and the cab of the forklift landed on top of him, causing fatal crush injuries. He died at the scene.

A WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found that the forklift’s handbrake was in the ‘on’ position at the time of the incident but was not working properly. Problems with the forklift’s performance had been reported to the company twice in the previous month including an entry in the shift-log noting that the brakes were faulty just six days before Mr Blincoe was killed.

Kiwi Timber Protection Limited pleaded guilty to a charge under sections 6 and 50 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of Mr Blincoe while at work. The company was sentenced yesterday in the Whangarei District Court.

WorkSafe’s Chief Investigator Keith Stewart says Kiwi Timber Protection did not have adequate systems in place to ensure its forklifts were properly checked and maintained.

“The forklift Mark Blincoe was driving was unsafe and should not have been in use. There can be no excuse for ignoring the reports of problems with the vehicle. If Kiwi Timber Protection Ltd had adequate systems in place for checking and maintaining their forklift fleet Mr Blincoe might still be alive – it is as simple as that.

“But there were also other failings identified in our investigation. The forklift had no seatbelt fitted and Mr Blincoe had not received adequate forklift driver training. That is just not good enough.

“Mark Blincoe’s death was needless and is a sad reminder that forklifts are a serious workplace hazard. They need to be treated with due caution and care,” says Keith Stewart.