Perth Engineering Company Faces Severe WHS Penalties

Perth Engineering Company Faces Severe WHS Penalties

A Perth engineering business and its director have been fined $460,000 after a worker died being crushed by a pipe that fell off a truck while it was being unloaded. 

The business VDM Engineering Pty Ltd was fined $390,000 and ordered to pay $5,000 in costs, and the director Mr David Van De Meeberg was personally fined $70,000. Both the business and the director pleaded guilty to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and that failure resulted in death.

The incident occurred in November 2018 when a truck carrying steel pipe was being unloaded for delivery at VDM Engineering. The material being delivered was four 12m long steel pipes weighing approximately 1.1 tonnes each. The delivery was made by Expressway-Civic Pty Ltd using a prime mover and semi-trailer. When the truck arrived to deliver the pipes a forklift operator employed by VDM Engineering used a forklift to offload the pallet and placed the first two lengths of pipe onto the ground.

The truck was not fitted with physical barriers such as pins, bolsters, uprights or stanchions to prevent pipes from rolling off during loading and unloading. When the forklift operator began offloading the remaining two pipes one rolled off the forklift tines, the truck driver who was on the opposite side of the semi-trailer out of sight winding up the straps that had been holding the pipes, was crushed against the limestone wall and died.

WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident found that:

  • VDM Engineering had no safe work procedures for this work, and the Director, Mr Van Den Meeberg did not implement safe work procedures.
  • Mr Van Den Meeberg was aware of the hazards of loading and unloading from trucks as another company had previously refused to use VDM’s truck because it was unsafe and did not have any physical barriers.
  • VDM employees had previously been required to stand in exclusion zones when undertaking deliveries with VDM’s truck.
  • VDM should not have used a forklift to unload the pipes when the truck did not have physical barriers. VDM did not substitute the forklift for one of the five-tonne capacity cranes in its factory.
  • VDM did not have or enforce a procedure on exclusion zones while trucks were being loaded or unloaded.
  • Mr Van Den Meeberg was onsite the day of the incident and did not recognise the hazard or take action to mitigate the risk.

In summary, VDM Engineering had previous issues loading and unloading heavy materials from trucks, the Director was aware of these risks and there were no adequate control measures in place to manage the risk (e.g., safe work procedures, substitution, physical barriers). This resulted in the tragic death of a truck driver who came onto the premises and VDM had a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

Recent WorkSafe prosecutions indicate a trend towards harsher penalties for employers who have breached their WHS duty of care.

If you are concerned about your WHS duty of care or the implications of the Work, Health and Safety Act (2020) please contact the Team at ProcessWorx on (08) 9316 9896 or email enquiries@processworx.com.au. If you do not have a WHS management system, contact us to see how we can help you or see our WHS Packages here.

Follow ProcessWorx on LinkedInFacebookInstagramYouTube, and Twitter to keep up with the latest HR and Safety news.

Written by Danielle McNamee

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Marisa Ross

HR Advisor

Marisa is an experienced and motivated HR professional with a strong HR generalist and business operations background with a focus on employee relations, performance management, leadership training & development, workers compensation & injury management, and employee retention. Marisa holds a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a Bachelor of Behavioural Science with a minor in Counselling. Having worked in a variety of industries from SMEs to large blue-chip organisations, Marisa is passionate about enriching employee experience, employee retention, and building leadership capability in people management.

Aimee Grigson

Aimee Grigson

WHS Advisor

Aimee has a strong understanding of Workplace Health and Safety Legislation and standards and has extensive HSEQ experience in a number of industries. Aimee has a great ability to engage across all levels of organisation, including field teams, leadership and external stakeholders. Aimee ensures Health and Safety Management Systems are compliant to legislation, effectively implemented and understood by all. Aimee has a Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety and qualifications in auditing and incident investigations. Aimee is passionate about coaching and developing small businesses towards a positive safety culture.