A new Forklift Operator of the Year has been crowned after a tightly contested grand final at the Brisbane Produce Market on Thursday, 27 October, with Soolefai Fale from GNL Produce taking out the top spot for the second time.
The event saw the top ten contestants battle it out over a timed, practical course, losing precious seconds for every error they made.
In a close contest that came down to the wire, Mr Fale took out the top prize of $3,000, with a spectacular final time of 2 minutes and 1 second. Joseph Kalolo from Armstrong Bros came second with a time of 2 minutes and 13 seconds, scoring $1,500 for his efforts.
Costa Farm’s Finau brothers, Na’a and Alfred who won in 2019 and 2021 respectively, were fighting it out for third place, with Alfred taking the lead on points to take the $500 prize money with a time of 2 minutes and 22 seconds.
Mr Fale last won the competition in 2018 as a plucky 21-year-old and came third in 2017 and 2019. He said that he maintained his edge this year by just focusing on the task at hand.
“I feel grateful and blessed to be number one, but I think all the contestants are winners,” Mr Fale said.
“I noticed some of the others were really nervous, thinking about the future and making mistakes. To win, you really need to live in the moment. I was shocked that I won though, I thought Joseph had me for a bit there!”
The event is hosted by Brisbane Markets Limited (BML), with the support of event sponsors Toyota Material Handling, The Drug Detection Agency, SBP Australia, Veolia and Brismark.
Brisbane Markets is home to the largest concentration of forklifts on any site in Queensland with 365 registered forklifts and 1,030 forklift operator permits active on site, according to BML Director and Brisbane Produce Market wholesaler, Stephen Edwards.
“The Forklift Operator of the Year competition is a great way to recognise the hard, often overlooked, work that our forklift operators do at this site. They are really put to the test during this competition and the top three really are the cream of the crop,” Mr Edwards said.
After competing in a month-long observation period, where they were scored on their adherence to safety and traffic rules on the Brisbane Markets site, the entrants are narrowed down to the top 10 who competed in the grand final obstacle course in front of the crowd that gathered within the Brisbane Produce Market to watch the spectacle.
Mr Fale encouraged other forklift operators to get involved in the event, saying you have to be in it to win it.
“Just take part, what have you go to lose? It’s $3,000 up for grabs!” he said.