Worker poisoned by carbon dioxide from forklift - Company pays fine and compensation of $43,000

28/02/2016 20:30

19 February 2015

Asparagus growing, packing and marketing business, Boyds Asparagus Industries Limited, has been fined $26,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $7,000 (in addition to $10,000 already paid) after a worker was poisoned by carbon monoxide. He suffered serious harm – he was unconscious for several hours and spent two days in hospital.

Boyds Asparagus Industries Limited operates a packing shed, cool stores and chillers in Cambridge. It leases chillers and the use of its forklifts to companies like Core Management Limited who use them to move and store apples for sale locally. The victim had worked for Core Management Limited for four years and had 20 years’ experience using forklifts.

On 14 April 2015, the victim was sorting stock in a chiller using the forklift. The chiller is about 12 metres long x 7 metres wide x 5-6 metres high, with one way in and out. After working for less than an hour using a LPG powered forklift, the victim was found unconscious on the floor and rushed to hospital.

Boyds Asparagus Industries Limited pled guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure an employee was healthy and safe at work. The company was sentenced today in the Hamilton District Court.

The company failed to identify the hazard of carbon monoxide poisoning from the use of a LPG powered forklift in a confined area. They also failed to train their employees on the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from using these types of forklifts in small spaces.

“Running a LPG powered forklift in a confined space poses a significant risk to health and has the potential to be fatal,” says Keith Stewart, WorkSafe’s Chief Inspector. “This common gas is often associated with fatalities from LPG heaters or running vehicles in enclosed areas.

“Boyds Asparagus Industries Limited could have ensured electric forklifts were used in the chillers, trained employees on the hazard of carbon monoxide poisoning from using non-electric forklifts in confined spaces and put up signage warning employees not to use the LPG forklifts in the chillers.

“While there is existing information on the risks of using forklifts and carbon monoxide, WorkSafe’s Clean Air programme is further raising awareness of the dangers of substances like carbon monoxide and how they can be eliminated or controlled.”