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Mike Makes It Three In A Row

22 October 2004

Mike Makes It Three In A Row

Picking up a basketball from on top of a traffic cone and placing it on top of a tube doesn't sound the sort of task to identify a national champion - but when the top of the tube is higher than the load deck of a truck, and you have to use a forklift to do the job it's a different story.

That task was one of the challenges facing Fonterra Pahiatua storeman Mike Penall on his way to a third straight win in the National Forklift Competition, which continued a remarkable run of form going back to 1986.

The six-time Manawatu champion was making his ninth appearance at the nationals, having previously racked up three thirds and three seconds, before taking the top prize in 2002 and again last year.

Fourteen drivers drawn from the eight regional finals completed six written tests covering topics including mechanical knowledge, load calculations and safety dos and don'ts, as well as five driving tests - one of which included moving the basketballs.

Occupational Safety and Health Services' Maurice Flood, the event's chief judge, said Mike's big winning margin - he was more than 20 points clear of the runner-up - was a remarkable effort in what was a very high calibre field, with over 400 contestants taking part in the regional competitions.

"We keep expecting the standard to plateau, but it keeps improving every year," Maurice said.

Mike was joined in the final by Fonterra Te Rapa's Alan Davis, the Waikato champion, who finished a creditable ninth in his first trip to the finals.

With part of his prize package a trip to the Melbourne Grand Prix, Mike is looking forward to kicking back and watching someone else do the driving, but for Maurice Flood the competition's real benefits are in the workplace.

"It's a great way to promote best practice. These guys become role models in their workplaces - having them as living examples of how to do the job builds safety awareness levels."


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