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Keeping people safe by paying better attention to vehicle maintenance would have saved a worker from a serious forklift injury, WorkSafe New Zealand says.

Casey Broad, WorkSafe’s National Manager Investigations, says the $240,000 fine handed down to Refrigafreighters Limited for an incident in September 2022 is a wake-up call to all businesses using forklifts.

“A worker had been collecting rubbish with the forklift. They parked it and put the handbrake on, but when they got out it started to roll down the slope it was parked on.”

The 33-year-old tried to recover the forklift but it tipped onto him and caused serious injuries including a punctured lung and broken back.

“WorkSafe’s investigation verified the forklift hadn’t been maintained and serviced to the standard we’d expect. We asked specialists to take a look and what they found was shocking – there were serious safety issues with the handbrake, to the point it would never have been able to stop the forklift from moving even on a slight incline.”

WorkSafe’s Casey Broad says the sentence is a reminder for businesses to keep workers safe.

“Businesses must ensure that forklifts and other vehicles and machines are safe to use. If businesses don’t meet their health and safety responsibilities, WorkSafe will hold them to account.”

“A lot of businesses use forklifts, but like any vehicle they need to be serviced and maintained so issues are picked up early and fixed. If you don’t, things can go wrong quickly.”

“Unfortunately there are too many incidents involving forklifts in New Zealand – businesses can do better to keep people safe.”

Background

  • Refrigafreighters Limited was sentenced at Manukau District Court on 7 May 2024
  • Refrigafreighters was fined $240,000. Reparations of $62,279 were ordered.
  • Refrigafreighters was charged under sections 36(1)(a), s48(1) and (2)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Being a PCBU having a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers who work for the PCBU, while the workers are at work in the business or undertaking, did fail to comply with that duty and that failure exposed workers, including the victim, to a risk of serious injury or death arising from the Hangcha Forklift.
  • The maximum penalty is a fine not exceeding $1.5 million.

Media contact details

For more information you can contact our Media Team using our media request form. Alternatively, you can:

Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz