Workplace safety breaches dealt with in November show similar worrying trends
He failed to ascertain the weight of the load he was lifting onto his lorry and used inappropriate equipment to secure it, resulting in the death of a worker who was helping him.
For his actions on Oct 12, 2018, lorry loader operator and driver Ho Man Kwong was sentenced on Nov 29 to five months’ jail under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
His employer, Koh Lian Kok, the sole proprietor of Ban Keong Transport, has been charged as well, but Koh’s case is still pending.
JP Nelson Access Equipment, the firm that engaged Ban Keong’s services, was fined $50,000 last year.
Ho’s case was one of four highlighted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday. The cases showed “worrying observations”, including taking shortcuts, a lack of proper safety procedures and a lack of risk assessment.
In another case, Mass Engineering sole director Karuppaiah Mathi was fined $110,000 on Nov 29 for failing to ensure that construction debris had been stored properly, and that workers could enter and exit the workplace safely.
A worker was killed on Feb 21, 2021, after he was trapped between two containers when one of them shifted due to the way in which the construction debris was stored.
The worker and his colleague had been loading accumulated debris onto tipper trucks at the workplace’s main entrance, leaving the space between two containers as the only available entry point.
His co-worker has been charged with committing a negligent act that resulted in his death. The case is still pending.
For the third case, Summit Gas Systems was fined $270,000 on Nov 30 after one of its workers died in a fire on June 21, 2019.
The worker and two others were employed to fill cylinders with liquified petroleum gas.
That day, one of them noticed some cylinders on the conveyor belts knocking against one another. Then one cylinder fell and hit a pipeline structure, causing the highly flammable gas to leak, and a fire broke out.
One worker died at the scene from his injuries, while the other two managed to flee the premises and were later treated at Singapore General Hospital.
MOM found that the firm had failed to do several things, including providing employees with flame-retardant clothing and an emergency stop button at the location.
It also did not ensure that employees had received adequate information to carry out their work.
Summit Gas Systems’ director, Ellen Teo Soak Hoon, was found to have failed in exercising diligence to prevent the occurrence of such an accident, and she was fined $50,000.
In the last case, the director of TC Builder and Machinery, Low Thiam Chuar, was fined $125,000 after a construction worker died at its worksite on Jan 14, 2019.
Workers there had been using a lift with its doors open to transport bags of debris to the ground floor for disposal.
While the lift was descending from the seventh to sixth storey, a worker reached out through the doorway to retrieve an unidentified object.
But the lift was moving at a faster rate than normal because of the weight of the debris, causing the worker to be caught in between the lift and the seventh storey lift landing.
In its findings, MOM said the firm had failed to implement an adequately safe work procedure for the use of the lift while its doors were open.
It also found that the firm had failed to conduct a risk assessment in the light of the dangers posed by using a lift with an open door.
MOM reiterated that employers and top management have a responsibility to ensure that safe work measures are in place, with employees reminded to adhere to these measures.
The ministry’s statement, which comes as Singapore grapples with the highest number of work-related deaths in four years – 42 so far this year - also stressed that it would not hesitate to impose tough penalties on parties found to have neglected safety.
“When companies, their top management or employees are lax on safety practices, the consequences can be fatal,” said MOM.
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