Fork-lift truck safety warning issued after eight die, 1300-plus injured

Paralympian Kahi Puru’s leg was amputated after a fork-lift truck accident. Photo: Peter StoopKahi Puru’s leg had to be amputated at the hip after he was injured in a fork-lift truck accident at work.

He overcame the injury to compete in the Paralympics as a powerlifter and on a handcycle in the New York Marathon.

The latest available figures from SafeWork​ NSW show 1360 workers were injured in fork-lift truck incidents in two years from July 2012 to July 2014.

Figures for fatalities, including the past 12 months, show there have been eight deaths in the past three years, prompting the state government to issue a work safety warning.

The Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello, said workplace safety needed to be the “number one priority for every business”.

SafeWork NSW has produced a new safety video and traffic management advice. It is also offering businesses rebates of up to $500 to implement safety improvements.

Traffic management plans include separating pedestrians from fork-lifts, using barriers and pedestrian walkways.

“Workplace incidents involving fork-lifts often result in serious injuries and operators need to be conscious of pedestrians at all times,” Mr Dominello said. “We want all workers to return home safely to their families at the end of each day.”

Mr Puru, of Newcastle, represented at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics. In 2004, he completed the New York Marathon on a handcycle.

He was placed seventh at the Paralympics after lifting 207.5 kilograms.

The powerlifting began after he watched a competition while he was swimming as part of his rehabilitation therapy.

He was working as an industrial cleaner in 1993 when he was struck by a fork-lift after he stepped out of his truck.

“I was coming towards the end of a 13½-hour shift and I was on an industrial site where I couldn’t see the fork-lift and he couldn’t see me,” Mr Puru said.

He was rushed to hospital and his left leg was amputated at the hip.

“I think fork-lift drivers need to be more aware of their surroundings. I don’t think a lot of them realise they have a job that can cause injuries,” he said.

Mr Puru works as a motivational speaker and ambassador for SafeWork NSW.