A STATEWIDE campaign has been launched to target the use of seatbelts on Victoria's 85,000 forklifts.
WorkSafe manufacturing logistics and agriculture program director Trevor Martin said that of 54 people killed in Victorian forklift-related fatalities since 1985, nine were operators who were crushed when they fell or jumped from the machine.
"Tip-overs are the second-highest cause of forklift-related deaths,” he said.
“They are also responsible for a high number of serious, and permanent, workplace injuries.
"If a tip-over happens when a seatbelt is used the operator stays with the forklift rather than under it.
"They're fitted as standard to modern forklifts.
“Older ones often have the capacity to have them fitted - if they can be fitted, they should be.
"Seatbelts can be fitted to 90% of forklifts."
WorkSafe inspectors will visit 500 large and small workplaces across Victoria during the campaign, which runs until June 2006.
As most workplaces with forklifts have several machines, the campaign will result in thousands of forklifts being inspected.
"Expect to be inspected - Make sure your forklift is safe,” Martin said.
"WorkSafe inspectors will be looking at not just the presence of seatbelts, but whether or not they are in good condition and able to perform their job.
“If they can't be fitted for some reason, other means of managing the risks associated with a tip-over should be put in place.
“Employers have a responsibility to ensure seatbelts are provided and used, and forklift drivers share the responsibility to use them and work safely.
“It may only take a bump, a turn taken too fast, an unseen beam or a pedestrian to lose control.
“When things start going wrong it's too late to take corrective action."
The campaign begins in the wake of a recent incident at Tullamarine, where a man suffered head and chest injuries after being crushed by a forklift that tipped.
WorkSafe has a range of guidance material about forklift safety including the publication 'Forklift Safety: Reducing the risk – Forklift instability' released in June.