VDM Engineering Pty Ltd and its director fined $460,000 after worker’s death

Hamish SpenceNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

A major southeast Perth engineering company and its director have been fined $460,000 after a worker was crushed to death by a one-tonne pipe in 2018.

VDM Engineering Pty Ltd and its director David Van De Meeberg pleaded guilty on Monday to failing to provide and maintain a safe work environment and, by that failure, causing the death of a person who was not an employee.

VDM was fined $390,000 and Mr Van De Meeberg $70,000 in the Perth Magistrate Court.

They were also ordered to pay $5000 in costs.

Camera IconVDM Engineering Pty Ltd and its director David Van De Meeberg pleaded guilty on Monday. NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

The tragic incident occurred at a Welshpool worksite in November 2018 when VDM ordered four 12m lengths of steel pipe, with each pipe weighing around 1.1 tonnes.

They were delivered by transport company Expressway-Civic, which used a prime mover and semi-trailer that were not equipped to prevent the pipes from rolling off during loading and unloading.

A truck delivered the pipes on Friday, November 16, with a VDM-employed forklift operator offloading them with his forklift.

When the forklift operator was offloading the remaining two pipes, the truck driver was working between the truck and a limestone wall and could not be seen by the operator.

When he attempted to offload the pipes, one of them rolled off the forklift and the far side of the semi-trailer, crushing the truck driver against the limestone wall.

The man in his 40s was rushed to Royal Perth Hospital, where he died a short time later.

Blueprint and a Hard Hat Inside a Building Frame
Camera IconThe truck driver was crushed by a one-tonne pipe. Credit: News Regional Media

WA WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh said multiple duty holders had failed to provide a safe working environment.

“The company had not formalised and implemented safe work procedures for this work, and Mr Van De Meeberg, who was in control of the workplace at the time, also did not implement safe work procedures despite being responsible for the worker’s safety,” he said.

“WorkSafe’s investigation into the incident was told that the company and Mr Van De Meeberg were aware of the hazards of loading and unloading pipes from a truck, as another company had previously refused to load VDM’s truck with pipes because it did not have adequate physical barriers.

“Mr Van De Meeberg was on site on the day of this incident and did not recognise the hazard or take any action to manage those risks. He could have and should have ensured that practicable measures were taken to prevent an incident such as this.

“VDM should not have permitted the truck to be unloaded with a forklift when it was not equipped with physical barriers.”

Darren Kavanagh at a construction site in Perth, Western Australia. Kavanaugh has announced his candidature for State Secretary selection for the CFMEU.
Camera IconWA WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh in 2013. Credit: News Limited

Mr Kavanagh said measures had since been implemented that would have prevented the accident from happening.

“At the time of this incident, VDM also did not have or enforce a procedure on exclusion or safety zones while trucks were being loaded or unloaded,” he said.

“After this incident, a procedure was implemented requiring truck drivers to be located outside an exclusion zone and in the sight of the forklift operator – measures that could have prevented the loss of life of this truck driver.”

VDM Engineering told NCA NewsWire it was glad all the families “finally had closure” after 3½ years.

Expressway-Civic has also been prosecuted over this incident.

The company has not yet entered a plea and will appear in court at a later date.

Originally published as VDM Engineering Pty Ltd and its director fined $460,000 after worker’s death

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