Company fined after warehouse worker struck by reversing forklift

An investigation found the person driving the vehicle was not licensed to do so.

A company has been fined $300,000 after a NSW worker was seriously injured after being struck by a forklift in a warehouse.

Brent Seaborn was working in the Port Macquarie warehouse of food supply company Bidfood NSW Pty Limited when he was struck by a reversing forklift in January 2021.

Seaborn suffered serious injuries and spent about two weeks in hospital immediately following the incident.

He underwent nine surgeries and spent more than six months in a wheelchair.

“Mr Seaborn’s life has been significantly diminished as a consequence of these injuries,” District Court Judge Wendy Strathdee said in sentencing the company last week.

“He continues to suffer chronic regional pain as the ligaments in his foot have been destroyed.

“The injuries have destroyed the active outdoors lifestyle that Mr Seaborn and his family enjoyed before the accident. They are unable to travel due to his disabilities.

“His greatest loss is that he can’t play with his young son anymore, as he spends most of his day and night in a recliner with his leg elevated on a pillow.”

Seaborn also suffered PTSD and financial stress.

Following the incident, SafeWork NSW conducted an investigation “which identified the deficiencies in the safety features of the freezer forklift and safety deficiencies in another Komatsu forklift operated by the defendant”.

In a statement of agreed facts, Bidfood NSW admitted the forklift had no reversing beeper fitted, no seatbelt and a horn that worked intermittently.

The worker who was operating the forklift at the time of the incident was not licensed as a forklift driver.

At the time of the incident, Seaborn was standing behind PVC strip curtains, which separated the warehouse freezer store from the receiving area, and obstructed the vehicle’s travel path.

Judge Strathdee said the offence was objectively serious.

“The seriousness of the foreseeable harm to a worker was significant, and the steps available to avoid the risk were straightforward and available to the defendant,” she said.

Following the incident, Bidfood NSW took steps to manage the risks posed by the forklift, including rectifying the defects to the forklifts, removing the PVC strip curtains which eliminated visual obstruction and blind spots and created exclusion zones within the warehouse to isolate forklifts to certain areas when they are in use.

Bidfood pleaded guilty to being in breach of the Work Health and Safety act, admitting to exposing Seaborn and two other workers to a risk of death or serious injury.

The company was fined $300,000 after being given a discount of 25 per cent for pleading guilty.

Source: 7News

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