An attempt by the Melbourne Market Authority (MMA) to overturn a WorkSafe improvement notice in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has been unsuccessful.
WorkSafe issued the improvement notice after a MMA employee working at the Melbourne Market in Epping was struck from behind by a powered mobile buggy travelling in the wrong direction along Buyers Walk in May 2016. The employee was knocked to the ground and suffered bruising.
After the incident, a WorkSafe inspector visited the market and observed that there were no physical barriers in place to separate pedestrians from powered mobile plant along the pedestrian walkway.
The inspector issued the MMA with an improvement notice requiring it to separate pedestrian traffic on the walkway from powered mobile machinery operating on Buyers Walk.
The MMA appealed the notice to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) arguing that the vehicles permitted on the walkway were either unlikely to cause significant injury or were not considered "powered mobile plant" under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
It also argued that the installation of bollards or barriers would impede the operation of the Buyers Walk area by restricting the ability of stall holders to use the space to display and move their produce.
The matter was scheduled to be heard last month but, one day prior to the hearing, the MMA agreed to withdraw the proceedings. Consequently, VCAT ordered that the inspector's improvement notice be upheld.
WorkSafe's Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said it was difficult for any workplace with a large number of pedestrian and mobile traffic operating in close proximity to justify not having appropriate physical segregation between them.
"The Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations are clear that employers must eliminate or reduce the risks of pedestrians being struck by powered mobile plant as much as they can," Ms Williams said.
"Pedestrians walking in and around moving machinery are a recipe for disaster, especially in a busy environment like the Melbourne Market where there can be lots of activity."
"Traffic management plans, marked lanes, signage, and administrative controls such as speed limits and enforcement play a role but, in an environment such as a wholesale market, it is difficult to see how anything less than physical separation of people from machinery would be considered an acceptable form of risk control."
"We are pleased that the MMA accepted WorkSafe's position, and will now take steps to separate pedestrians from moving plant to ensure the safety of all people that visit and work at the market."
Safety measures to control the risks of pedestrians being struck by powered mobile machinery include:
• Segregating pedestrians from powered mobile machinery in high traffic workplaces by redesigning pathways or installing physical barriers.
• Ensuring a traffic management plan is drawn up, implemented, and adhered to.
• Ensuring staff are adequately trained to operate machinery safely and follow safety guidelines at all times.
• Ensuring warning devices are fitted where appropriate and that pedestrians and machinery operators wear high visibility clothing.
For more information go to worksafe.vic.gov.au or call its advisory service on 1800 136 089.
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email email@example.com or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.