Employer fined $100k after worker was electrocuted while fixing a motor
While he was replacing the motor of a roller shutter, an electrician was electrocuted, fell off a ladder and died about an hour later in hospital.
Following Mr Tong Baorong's death, his employer Lee Ee Ten was found to have failed to properly conduct risk assessment and implement measures and safe work procedure to minimise and control risks.
The 65-year-old Singaporean, who had also failed to ensure her workers had adequate instructions, information and training, was fined $100,000 on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to a charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
If she fails to pay the fine, she will be jailed for three months.
Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutor Maximilian Chew said in court documents that on Nov 7, 2019, Lee deployed Mr Tong, another electrician and a general worker to replace the motor of a roller shutter at Tritech Building at 31 Changi South Avenue 2.
Construction company Presscrete Engineering had engaged Tan Kim Seng Roller Shutters, where Lee was a partner, to carry out the work.
After the three workers arrived at the building at about 9.30am, Mr Tong climbed up a ladder that was placed at an angle against the frame of the roller shutter to turn off the isolator of the shutter's motor.
He began replacing the motor that was about 5.6m above the ground, while his two colleagues held the ladder and passed him the replacement motor.
At about 9.40am, Mr Tong successfully mounted the replacement motor and connected it to the isolator.
When he turned on the isolator, the motor's metal frame and all conductive materials that were in contact with it, including the ladder, became live immediately as the frame was connected to the live terminal of the main electricity supply.
"Instantly, Tong fell off the ladder and landed face down on the ground." said Mr Chew.
Mr Tong was taken to Changi General Hospital where he died at about 10.40am. The cause of death was certified as electrocution with multiple injuries.
Mr Chew said Mr Tong did not open the isolator cover to check the wiring configuration and assumed the electricity supply from the isolator was single-phase when it was in fact three-phase.
Based on this incorrect assumption, Mr Tong connected the replacement motor to the isolator and the switch for the main electricity supply was turned on at that time.
Mr Chew said Lee had failed in her duty as the employer of the three workers to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure their safety and health.
Among the issues with the assessment that was conducted was that it had only identified the hazards of being struck by falling objects and falling from height.
"It failed to identify the hazard of electrocution even though the works involved working with live electrical apparatus. The primary cause of Tong's death was electrocution." said Mr Chew.
As the hazard of electrocution was not identified, related control measures were not implemented. These include requiring the workers to establish whether the electricity supply was three-phase or single-phase and to wear insulative protective equipment such as insulating gloves and safety footwear.
For the offence under the Workplace Safety Act, Lee could have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to $200,000, or both.
In 2019, MOM recorded 39 workplace fatalities, two more than the number of deaths so far in 2022.
Following the spate of fatalities this year, a code of practice meant to improve workplace safety culture in Singapore was launched on Monday, which includes measures such as setting up internal reporting systems that assure workers of fair treatment.
The code will be gazetted in October, meaning that if a company commits an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the courts will be able to consider compliance with these measures in their judgment.