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Forklift fatality costs company $200,000 fine and conviction

Workplace safety failings which resulted in the death of a forklift driver have resulted in a northern-Victorian company being convicted and fined $200,000.

County Court Judge Lance Pilgrim sentenced SDS Beverages Food and Wine Pty Ltd of Irymple.

The company pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

A 44-year–old forklift driver died on 8 November 2005 when his machine tipped onto its side over after striking a roof support pole. He was not wearing a seatbelt and was crushed by the machine.

WorkSafe’s investigation found the roof support poles had been struck a number of times by forklifts and that workers had backed into poles because of inadequate space.

Although incident reports were created in respect of these incidents, SDS was unable to produce any documentation recording these previous incidents or any remedial action taken.

A traffic management plan was put in place and staff were given training after the death.

WorkSafe Executive Director John Merritt said the death of Marcus Martin was one of 56 involving forklifts in Victoria since 1985.

“The causes of these deaths are well known and information about workplace health and safety requirements have been in place for decades, yet WorkSafe inspectors still frequently find major issues with the operation of forklifts.

“Improvements are been made, but they often only follows a tragedy liked this. Obvious dangers are often ignored and shortcuts become established as the norm. Both these factors can lead to human and commercial disaster,” Mr Merritt said.

“WorkSafe expects forklifts to be used correctly, properly maintained and for operators to have appropriate licences and training. Where they are fitted, seatbelts should be used.”

WorkSafe has a wide range of publications on forklift safety including ‘Forklift safety reducing the risk’ which provides information about reducing a range of risks associated with forklift operations, including stability, speed and load handling.

A range of information and publications are available online at or call the Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 toll free or 9641 1444.