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Shipyard operator fined $200,000 for lapses that led to worker’s death

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A shipyard operator, Asia Pacific Shipyard (APS), has been fined $200,000 for safety lapses that led to the death of a worker in a 2019 accident.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday that APS was fined on Wednesday after pleading guilty to offences under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act and “specifically for not taking reasonably practicable measures”.

On May 26, 2019, Bangladeshi worker Rahman Zillur, 30, was killed after being hit by a forklift at a shipyard.

MOM said Mr Rahman was walking along a slipway when a forklift transporting a blasting pot to the shipyard’s storage area suddenly accelerated forward, crashed through a guard rail and fell into the slipway.

The forklift struck Mr Rahman, who died at the scene.

The worker operating the forklift, Shanmugam Sivarasu, was sentenced on July 21, 2022, to 11 months’ imprisonment.

He had operated a forklift without any training on how to do so, and with the knowledge that the forklift’s brakes were faulty. His reckless act directly caused Mr Rahman’s death, said MOM.

The supervisor in charge of the team working at the site, Yeduvaka Mali Naidu, was sentenced, on the prosecution’s appeal, to 11 months’ imprisonment on Aug 10.

MOM said he had allowed Shanmugam, an untrained worker, to operate forklifts on multiple occasions despite knowing that the worker was not certified, trained or competent to do so.

In addition, he was also aware that the brakes of the forklifts were faulty, but he still used the faulty forklifts and allowed the untrained Shanmugam to do so.

MOM said its investigations found that APS, as the occupier of the workplace, had failed to prevent the unauthorised operation of forklifts there, ensure the proper maintenance of forklifts kept within the workplace, and ensure that the maintenance and repair of forklifts were performed only by competent individuals.

APS’ failures resulted in the fatal accident, the ministry added.

Mr Sebastian Tan, director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said: “Asia Pacific Shipyard had failed to put in place rudimentary measures to manage their forklift operations, like proper maintenance and ensuring that only trained personnel operate forklifts.”

He added: “This led to lax practices on the ground, which culminated in the fatality. This is unacceptable and totally preventable.

“Everyone has a part to play in taking ownership of workplace safety and health – top management must take the lead by ensuring WSH management systems are effective, while supervisors and workers need to carry this through by ensuring safety practices are adhered to during operations.”

In 2022, there have been 40 workplace deaths, surpassing the 37 recorded for the whole of 2021.

The number of work-related deaths and injuries also resulted in a six-month heightened safety period imposed by MOM from Sept 1.