The Australian Forklift and Industrial Truck Association (AFITA) has welcomed the National Cabinet back-down from its suggestion that 16 year olds be enabled to operate forklifts to help with labour shortages due to the impact of COVID-19.
AFITA president Steve Takacs says forklifts and industrial trucks are complex pieces of industrial equipment, subject to stringent design, training, licensing and safety requirements governed by Australian and International Standards and Australian Workplace Health and Safety regulations at Federal and State/Territory levels.
Takacs says that just as it is inconceivable that minors would be enabled to operate any other form of transport as a perceived response to the impact of COVID-19, it is entirely inappropriate that this should be proposed for a specialised sector of complex industrial materials handling equipment.
“The industry and its peak body, AFITA, have worked for many years to improve the safe use and compliance of forklifts in the Australian logistics industry,” he says. “As a result of this approach, safety standards have been raised and the number of incidents, including fatalities, have reduced in recent years.”
Takacs says the industry is very concerned that this suggestion reached the National Cabinet without any reference to the sector peak body, the major manufacturers or any apparent consideration of the impact on workplace health and safety.
The Prime Minister last week hastily abandoned plans to let under-18s drive forklifts to ease supply chain pressure. He came under fire from many sectors, but backed down when it became clear that the Commonwealth could not unilaterally lower the licensing age and Canberra got no support from the states.