|Offender||David Gerardes VAN DE MEEBERG|
|Charge||Charge Number||Offence Date||Date Convicted||Regulation||Section||Penalty Provision||Penalty Imposed||Date Sentenced|
|1||PE47209/2021||16 November 2018||9th March 2022||21(1) 21A(2) 55(1)||3A(3)(a)(i)||$70,000.00||27th June 2022|
|Description of Breach(es)||
Being an employer, failed to, so far as was practicable, ensure that the safety or health of a person, not being an employee of the employer, was not adversely affected wholly or in part as a result of work which was undertaken by the Accused, or as a result of a hazard which was increased by the work being undertaken by the Accused, or as a result of a hazard which was increased by the system of work being operated by the Accused, which caused the death of that person.
On 16 November 2018 an employee of Expressway-Civic Pty Ltd (ACN 008 924 285) (Expressway-Civic), was killed after being crushed by a piece of pipe that fell off a semi-trailer while it was being unloaded at the premises of V.D.M. Engineering Pty Ltd (ACN 131 919 643) (VDM Engineering) (the Incident).
THE EMPLOYER OF THE VICTIM
Expressway-Civic, is a transport and warehousing company that at the relevant time was operating out of premises in Canning Vale. One of the truck drivers employed by Expressway-Civic was the victim.
VDM Engineering, is a steel fabrication business. VDM Engineering is experienced in taking deliveries of pipe. VDM Engineering employed employees at its workplace in Welshpool.
Mr David Gerardes Van De Meeberg (Mr Van De Meeberg), is and was a director of VDM Engineering. He has been managing VDM Engineering since 2008 and had control over VDM Engineering's operations and was an active and present supervisor on the workshop floor.
On 13 November 2018, VDM Engineering ordered (among other things) four 12 metre long lengths of pipe and one pallet of flanges (the delivery). Each length of pipe weighed approximately 1.1 tonnes. Ultimately, Expressway-Civic agreed to undertake the delivery. The delivery was scheduled for Friday, 16 November 2018. The semi-trailer used in the delivery was not equipped with physical barriers (such as pins, bolsters, uprights or stanchions) that were capable of preventing pipe from rolling off the semi-trailer during loading and unloading.
The incident itself
The victim arrived at VDM Engineering at approximately 8:45 am on 16 November 2018. He reversed the prime mover and semi-trailer down the driveway at VDM Engineering. Mr Van De Meeberg was present in the yard at this time. Mr Van De Meeberg saw the truck when it arrived.
VDM Engineering intended for the pipes to be offloaded from the semi-trailer onto wooden gluts on the ground in VDM Engineering's yard. Mr Van De Meeberg placed the wooden gluts on the ground. A VDM Engineering employee used a forklift to offload the pallet from the semi- trailer at approximately 8:50 am. The employee then offloaded two lengths of pipe with the forklift at approximately 8:55 am.
When the VDM employee attempted to offload the second two pieces of pipe, the piece of pipe closest to the forklift rolled towards the forklift. However, the second piece of pipe rolled off the tynes of the forklift and off the far side of the semi-trailer and crushed the victim against the limestone wall.
An employee from VDM Engineering called an ambulance and the police. The victim was pronounced dead at Royal Perth Hospital at approximately 10:00 am. The victim died as a result of being crushed by the pipe falling off the truck.
THE HAZARD AND PRACTICABLE MEASURES
If adequate precautions are not taken then there is a high risk of a pipe falling off a truck during loading or unloading which carries a significant risk of serious injury or death to any workers in the vicinity.
The failures by each accused to implement the relevant causative measures they were convicted of caused the victim’s death. The risks involved in loading and unloading pipe are well known in the heavy duty transportation industry.
Mr Van De Meeberg was aware that unloading pipe from a truck without proper precautions is a hazardous exercise. An employee of VDM Engineering had previously attempted to pick up pipe in their truck that did not have adequate physical barriers. The company that the pipe was being picked up from refused to load VDM Engineering's truck with pipe for this reason. Following this incident, VDM Engineering installed physical barriers on their own truck in order to be able to load and unload pipe safely. In addition, employees from VDM Engineering had been required to stand in exclusion zones when undertaking deliveries while using VDM Engineering's truck prior to the incident.
VDM Engineering should not have permitted the semi-trailer to be unloaded with a forklift in circumstances where it was not equipped with adequate physical barriers. In addition, physical barriers can be manufactured for trucks for as little as $500.
At the time of the incident VDM Engineering had three 5 tonne capacity rated overhead cranes in its factory. The pipe could have been unloaded using one of these cranes. Alternatively, VDM Engineering could also have refused to take the delivery in circumstances where the truck was not properly equipped.
Exclusion zones or safety areas are commonly used when trucks are being loaded and unloaded.
Before the incident VDM Engineering did not have or enforce a procedure that required external truck drivers to stand in an exclusion or safety zone area while trucks were being loaded or unloaded. After the incident VDM Engineering formalised and implemented a procedure for the unloading and loading of trucks at its premises. The procedure required truck drivers to be located outside of an exclusion zone and in the sight of the forklift operator.
As part of implementing this procedure VDM Engineering employees establish an exclusion zone with signage and traffic cones when deliveries are being made. The procedure took little time to establish and the cost of the signage and traffic cones was only approximately $200.
MR VAN DE MEEBERG'S LIABILITY
Mr Van De Meeberg was on site on the day of the incident. He watched the prime mover and semi-trailer back in to the VDM Engineering’s premises, and placed wooden gluts on the ground for the pipe to sit safely on the ground once unloaded.
Mr Van De Meeberg did not recognize that a semi-trailer carrying pipe without physical barriers increased the hazard of pipe falling off while unloading and did not take any steps to mitigate the hazard.
Mr Van De Meeberg could have, and should have, ensured that the practicable measures referred to above were implemented by VDM Engineering.
The offender plead guilty and was convicted on 9 March 2022. The Magistrate then sentenced on 27 June 2022 and issued an initial fine of $120,000 which was then reduced by mitigating factors to $70,000. Global costs were ordered with VDM of $5000.00
|Court||Magistrates Court of Western Australia - Perth|
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