May 24, 2020

People and mobile plant at the workplace

Operating mobile plant is common activity in several workplaces and is an area of safety management that is currently in the spotlight with the first Industrial Manslaughter charge relating to a forklift incident and a state-wide WHSQ onsite traffic management campaign.

In a first for Queensland, the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor has commenced a prosecution against Brisbane Auto Recycling Pty Ltd for industrial manslaughter under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The workplace fatality occurred on Friday 17 May 2019, when a worker was tragically killed after being struck by a reversing forklift at the wrecking yard in Rocklea. The charge of industrial manslaughter includes allegations that Brisbane Auto Recycling caused the death of their worker by failing to effectively separate pedestrians from mobile plant, and failed to effectively supervise workers, including the operators of mobile plant. The charges against the directors relate to their failure as directors to ensure that the business had those systems in place.

A current campaign being delivered by Workplace Health and Safety QLD is onsite traffic management – pedestrian safety around vehicles and mobile plant launched in Feb 2020 and one would assume that it will continue post Covid-19 isolation. Inspectors will visit workplaces across multiple industries throughout the state (i.e. construction, retail, depots distribution centres, manufacturing and the rural sectors) and will look at the effectiveness of systems and controls in place to eliminate or reduce the risk of vehicles colliding with pedestrians. Some examples of systems and controls that may be checked include:
 – separate pedestrian and vehicle routes, such as different entry and exit points for vehicles
 – dedicated and separate areas away from people for loading and unloading goods
 – wide traffic routes, so vehicles or plant do not enter pedestrian areas
 – barriers, fences or exclusion zones, isolating workers or pedestrians from vehicles and mobile plant
 – enforced speed limits and traffic signage (i.e. stop, give way, no entry, caution).
WHSQ has prepared a self-assessment tool that allows workplaces to evaluate their current position and assess any further mitigation that may be applied.

Encompass Safety is your professional partner for Safety Consultancy and Management System Audits, providing coverage over SE Qld. If you would like to discuss this topic further call 1300 974 976 or email

About Steve Fitzpatrick
With 20 years’ experience in health and safety, management systems and training, I specialise in assisting small to medium sized businesses achieve the standards required to work with tier-one construction companies, mining and government contracts and as a registered lead auditor, I can assist in achieving ISO certification in safety, quality and environmental systems.