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Amputation follows forklift trauma at Trade Depot – WorkSafe

Businesses that contend with on-site traffic must learn from a collision that cost a woman her lower leg, WorkSafe New Zealand says.

The woman was waiting to collect whiteware from the customer collections area outside Trade Depot in Onehunga, when she was struck by a forklift in August 2022. The 68-year-old was rushed to hospital with injuries so severe her left leg had to be amputated below the knee.

WorkSafe charged Trade Depot after finding it had no effective traffic management plan to ensure moving vehicles and pedestrians were kept separate. In addition, WorkSafe investigators found that the lights on the forklift were not functioning at the time of incident.

“It is only by sheer luck that a serious injury or death was not caused before this incident. Forklifts were moving in and around pedestrians, delivering goods on a daily basis, but the site lacked any adequate systems to manage the risk of interaction between forklifts and pedestrians in the customer collections area,” says WorkSafe’s area investigation manager, Paul West.

“One-way systems, barriers, designated crossing points, and speed bumps or signage are among the measures that could have avoided this unfortunate injury. All businesses whose work requires traffic management should take notice of this case to ensure they aren’t falling short.”

In response to this incident, WorkSafe immediately issued two improvement notices to ensure a barrier was put between the pedestrian pathway and vehicles at the Onehunga site, and to ensure procedures were in place for forklifts operating near pedestrians. Both notices were complied with.

“Forklifts are a known risk – many people have died or been injured by forklift incidents, yet it’s clear the risks are not being appropriately managed in many workplaces. Risk assessment should consider anybody who could be harmed – which includes both workers and customers, and businesses must not lose sight of that,” says Paul West.

Read WorkSafe’s guidelines on managing work site traffic

Read about a 2016 WorkSafe prosecution of Trade Depot