Outdated forklift regulations need attention before more people are injured

The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety must rectify the nearly 30-year-old forklift code of practice before another person is seriously injured – or worse, killed.

So says NZ Forklift Industry Association (NZFIA) Chief Executive Rodney Grant following Trade Depot’s Manukau District Court sentencing last month after a customer was struck by a forklift and suffered injuries so severe, that the 68-year-old’s leg was eventually amputated.

WorkSafe charged Trade Depot after finding it had no effective traffic management plan to ensure moving vehicles and pedestrians were kept separate.

The lights on the forklift were also not functioning at the time of the incident.

“It is only by sheer luck that a serious injury or death was not caused before this incident,” says WorkSafe Area Investigation Manager Paul West.

Claims by a former worker that Air New Zealand ignored previous forklift near-misses, where a man was crushed by a forklift and left unable to work again, were reported three days later.

These recent incidents are another example of why NZFIA took it upon itself to develop the Forklift Good Practice Guidelines (GPG) last year, providing modern and fit-for-purpose information and guidance to those involved in forklift operations.

Grant is optimistic the GPG will one day replace the severely outdated and inadequate Approved Code of Practice of Forklift Training and Operations Practice (ACOP).

However, invitations to discuss how the forklift industry can support the Government in keeping itself safe and professional have been declined.

In the meantime, Grant worries more people are likely to become collateral damage.

“The current regulations are no longer applicable to the settings in which the industry operates and do not reflect current health and safety legislation,” he says.

“The existing regulations were published in 1995 and are totally unfit for purpose, given modern operating conditions, training techniques, and equipment.

“That’s why we took the initiative to develop the new guidelines.”

The inherent design and principles of a forklift haven’t changed much in decades but how we use them and how businesses operate has, Grant says.

“The GPG provides safe work practices on how to select, maintain and operate forklifts – including a whole chapter on traffic management plans.

“It also helps duty holders to meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 – something sorely missing in Trade Depot’s case being charged under sections 36(2), 48(1) and (2)(c) of Act.

“So, we’re calling on Brooke van Velden to come to the table to find a pathway to have the GPG formally recognised and officially replace the ACOP, helping workers go home safe.

“But we’re also calling on the industry to do their part too; refer to the GPG at all times for assistance and guidance on forklift operation.”

For more information or to speak with NZFIA Chief Executive Rodney Grant, call James Paul on 022 514 0716.