Safety must be top priority
Chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce says human intervention is the main reason for most workplace accidents
A foreign worker fell head first to his death in 2012 while installing banners onto lamp posts from a cherry picker, a mobile boom lift.
The elevated bucket he was in was not lowered before the machine moved off to the next lamp post, crashing into an overhead bridge and throwing him out.
Such a tragedy could have been prevented if due attention had been given.
Mr Abdul Akbar, chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce, said human intervention has been the main reason for most workplace accidents, rather than faulty machinery.
He added that although it may be impractical to repeatedly lower and raise the boom, thus affecting overall productivity, companies must balance this with safety.
The company was accused of several offences, one of which was the lack of suitable safe work procedures and risk assessments (RA) specifically for this task.
It instead prepared an RA for the carrying of goods using a lorry crane.
An RA must be conducted by every employer, self-employed person and principal (including contractor and sub-contractor) to assess the safety and health hazards of any routine and non-routine work.
This includes risk prevention and giving workers safe step-by-step instructions before their tasks.
It is not about blindly following strict rules and regulations, but the individual taking ownership of the safety of himself and those around him.Mr Abdul Akbar, chairman of the National Crane Safety Taskforce
This was another bone of contention for the accused company, which chose a worker who had not been sent for any safety training or courses to be the supervisor for the installation works.
The supervisor's role was to brief workers on the potential hazards of the task and ensure that the boom was lowered before the vehicle moved to the next lamp post.
He also did not possess the skills or knowledge for operating the hydraulic boom, an essential element of the installation works.
Adding to the list of offences, the company did not mandate the use of personal protective equipment when working at heights.
Instead, it allowed the workers to determine among themselves whether or not to wear a safety belt or harness.
The company provided a lanyard, which could not be adjusted, as a substitute for a safety harness. It was too large to arrest the worker's fall, resulting in his death.
Cherry pickers are a type of mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) used to position workers, materials or equipment at heights. Scissor lifts are also MEWPs.
Those working on MEWPs are protected by physical barricades to prevent falls.
When using a cherry picker, the following should be observed:
- Ensure that platforms are fitted with a safety interlock system to prevent accidental toppling.
- Workers should wear safety harnesses with a short lanyard and anchor it properly.
- All MEWPs should be used only on a solid and level surface, and within the load limit. It should not be used in high wind conditions or on uneven ground
Mr Akbar, 56, who has been chairman of the taskforce for the past three years, said safety is ultimately an individual's responsibility, rather than the sole effort of the Government or the companies.
"It is not about blindly following strict rules and regulations, but the individual taking ownership of the safety of himself and those around him."
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