Safety officer, project manager jailed after worker died in construction accident at Changi Airport

Singapore
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SINGAPORE: A safety officer and a project manager were sentenced to jail on Wednesday (Sep 23) after a Bangladeshi worker died following a construction accident at Changi Airport more than three years ago.

Workplace Safety and Health officer Tan Wee Meng was sentenced to two months’ jail, while project manager Lee Chung Ling was sentenced to three months’ jail, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday.

Both men pleaded guilty on Aug 20 for committing negligent acts that endangered the safety of workers who were constructing a high-tension cable conduit along Airport Boulevard at Changi Airport.

The employer Chan and Chan was fined S$150,000 on Sep 13, 2018 for failing to take practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees.

READ: More fatal workplace accidents despite decline in work activities due to COVID-19 pandemic

On Mar 22, 2017 at about 10.50am, Bangladeshi worker Miah Salim, 43, was inside an excavation pit and erecting the formwork for the construction of the high tension cable conduit.

At the time of the incident, five other workers were working with Mr Salim, who was the group leader. 

Mr Salim was using a hammer to adjust a wooden horizontal prop – used to support two steel plates – when the prop slipped. This caused one of the steel plates to fall inwards and hit Mr Salim’s chest, said court documents.

He was later taken to Changi General Hospital, where he died at about 1pm from his injuries.

As the work safety and health officer, Tan failed to assist Chan and Chan in identifying and assessing the risks arising from the formwork construction methods used by the workers to construct the high-tension cable conduit, said MOM.

Tan also failed to recommend to the employer “reasonably practicable measures to eliminate foreseeable risks to workers”, added the ministry.

Lee failed to review the work method and processes for the formwork construction of the conduit and did not ensure the employer appointed a supervisor for formwork activities at the worksite.

The project manager also did not approve risk assessments and safe work procedures for the use of the metal module formwork at the workplace and failed to ensure the control measures in the risk assessments were implemented.

According to court documents, the workers were using “an unsafe and unauthorised” method of constructing the formwork with steel plates, something that both Lee and Tan failed to notice.

At the worksite, the common method for constructing the formwork for the conduit was the metal module formwork and not the conventional framework, said court documents.

The employer, through Lee and Tan, had approved the use of both the timber formworks and metal module formworks. 

“The workers had been using metal module formwork to construct the conduit at the workplace for several weeks before the accident,” said court documents.

“The work activity for constructing the conduit using the metal module formwork was not considered in the risk assessment documents. There was also no documented procedure for the use of the metal module formwork.”

The workers, who did not know the procedures for the methods of constructing the formwork, followed Mr Salim’s instructions to do the work, said the court documents. 

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