High consequence low frequency (HCLF) forklifts project 2015-16


SafeWork NSW commissioned Communio, a research company, to survey a sample of businesses from small, medium and large industries that use forklifts or industrial lift trucks.

There are 278,000 people in NSW who hold a high risk work (HRW) license to operate a forklift.

Forklifts or industrial lift trucks are used to lift, stack and transfer loads in warehouses, factories, shipping yards, freight terminals and other workplaces across Australia.

Forklifts offer a practical materials handling solution for many businesses but each year they continue to be associated with workplace injuries and deaths.

Benefits of the survey

Assessment of business perception is a valuable opportunity for SafeWork to hear about industry safety practices and identify industry safety solutions and perceived barriers to implementing safety solutions. This can also assist us to tailor the products and services we provide.

Asking businesses in high risk work areas about the issues and problems they face indicates their perception of how interested we are in what they think and how we can better service them.


15 businesses participated in indepth interviews, of those, one third represented small businesses with between one and 20 workers, one third represented medium size businesses with between 21 and 100 workers and one third represented large businesses with 101 plus workers.

Interviews were conducted with direct supervisors of persons operating forklift trucks or persons working in the vicinity of forklift trucks.

Each business size category included at least one business in a metropolitan and a regional area from each of the wholesale, transport, manufacturing and storage/warehousing sections.

Survey results

Safety culture results

All businesses displayed a drive and enthusiasm for maintaining a safety culture.

All indicated a desire and willingness to adopt any additional requirements that would enhance the safety of their work environment and support the safety of their staff.

Communication results

All businesses relied on media like email, internet links and videos for both the receipt and dissemination of safety information. The larger businesses were heavy users of technology and their staff had a higher degree of computer literacy.

Small businesses tended to use face to face interaction for sharing information.

100 per cent of businesses utilised posters and considered them to be an effective and efficient way to bring important information to the attention of workers and visitors.

The age and ethnicity of operators were factors in organisational approaches to information sharing.

Safety information and procedures results

All businesses provided safety information to their drivers, both permanent and non-permanent prior to commencement of work and on a continuing regular basis. The larger businesses had a more formal training approach and small to medium businesses tended to be more informal and considered verbal communication more interactive.

All companies utilised activities such as toolbox quizzes and ‘truck drive talk’ before every unloading and loading.

80 per cent of businesses had safe work procedures in place. However some of the small to medium companies relied on induction and training, and basic safety procedures they had in place.

80 per cent of businesses never or rarely have staff working or walking within three metres of a forklift.

Accessing health and safety information and material

Most companies preferred to receive information via email especially small to medium size businesses. Internet links were less popular with workers due to computer literacy levels and disinterest in reading information online. Posters and literature that utilised diagrams and pictures were preferred. Large businesses preferred tool box talks due to a mix of staff ages, different literacy and language levels.

Level of danger when using a forklift

On average danger of working with forklifts was rated as five out of 10. However 100% of large businesses rated the level of danger as high.


87 per cent of staff always wear their seatbelts.

The repetitious nature of getting on and off forklifts was presented as the main reason for drivers not wearing seat belts.

Secure load on pallet before moving it:

Over 60 per cent of respondents utilised pallets for packing of loads.

Forklift driver licence checks

Large businesses had the most robust systems and monitoring in place. Smaller businesses relied on more manual systems and generally only checked licences at the time of employment and induction.

Companies that used non-permanent staff had a tendency to rely on contracting companies to undertake the checks and provide staff with current licences.

Effectiveness of a rebate

87 per cent of respondents said that a safety rebate or incentive would not make them more inclined to implement a safety solution. Most respondents would prefer more information.

Small businesses said that the safety rebate was a good idea but they were concerned about the cost of implementing a safety solution and the investment for a small business.

Further information

A copy of the full report is available by contacting gipa@safework.nsw.gov.au.

While this work has been undertaken according to valid and rigorous methodology, SafeWork NSW acknowledges that any such research is only the perceptions and actions of a sample of the broader population, so the findings must be taken in context with knowledge of our customers and influences on the way we do our work.
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