Seven Charged for ‘Fall From Height’ Accidents
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has prosecuted a foreman, two company directors, two sub-contractors and two occupiers under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. They failed to ensure the safety of workers who were performing work at height, resulting in the deaths of three workers in three separate worksite accidents.
2. In the first case, a sub-contractor and its director were fined $70,000 and $20,000 respectively on 15 April 2009 for failing to ensure safe use of a gondola by a worker who fell to his death. The occupier was also fined $18,000 on 26 May 2009. In the second case, a foreman was fined $6,000 on 28 May 2009 for permitting the deceased worker to work at a place where he could fall more than 2 metres without any anchorage provided for safety belts. The third case was first mentioned in court today. In this accident, a main contractor, its director and the sole proprietor of a subcontractor were charged for failing to implement measures to allow the deceased worker to work safely on a house roof. If convicted, the contractor may be fined up to $500,000 and the directors may be fined up to $200,000 and/or jailed up to 2 years. More details of the cases are in the Annex.
Falls from height a top killer at workplaces
3. Over the last three years (2006 to 2008), falls from height is the number one cause of workplace fatalities. Such accidents make up 3 in every 10 of all workplace fatalities, with the majority of the cases from the construction and marine sectors. These two sectors accounted for more than 70% of ‘fall from height' accidents. MOM takes a serious view of employers, supervisors and other stakeholders not taking adequate measures to ensure safety of workers in the workplace and will take them to task under the law.
MOM to take firm enforcement action
4. “These cases showed that simple safety measures conscientiously applied could have saved the three workers. The responsibility of preventing such accidents must fall squarely on all stakeholders. Employers and supervisors who fail to put in place safety measures will face stern enforcement actions by MOM. Our officers will continue to conduct surprise inspections on top of our regular checks at worksites islandwide.” said Mr Ho Siong Hin, Commissioner for Workplace Safety and Health, Ministry of Manpower.
Fall Protection Plan to be required at workplaces
5. To help the industry raise their safety standards for work at height,, the Workplace Safety and Health Council has worked with key industry players and MOM on a draft Code of Practice on Safe Working at Height1. The draft Code includes the requirement for workplaces to implement a Fall Protection Plan. This Plan was first announced by Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong at the launch of the National WSH Campaign on 28 April. The Fall Protection Plan systematically identifies fall hazards in the workplace and puts in place fall prevention measures like barricades and safe access to and from work areas. For more information on the draft Code and useful information on Work at Height, please refer to the WSH Council website. The WSH Council intends to issue this Code within the next three months.
1The draft Code has undergone extensive industry consultation that concluded on 31 May 2009. Feedback from the industry will be taken into consideration for the revised Code.
Summary of Investigation Findings
On 20 July 2008, the deceased worker, Pichaimuthu Dhanikodi, fell from an inclined roof to the ground at the rear of a house that was undergoing construction. The worker was tasked to install a lightning conductor on the roof. Investigations showed that the worker climbed wooden scaffolds to access the roof as there was no way provided to gain access to the main roof from inside the house. There were no lifelines or fall preventive barricades installed on the main roof.
At the first mention of this case on 11 June 2009, MOM charged three parties for their failure to ensure safety in this incident.
The first was the occupier of the construction site, Tat Ho Builder Pte Ltd. It was prosecuted for eight charges of contraventions at the worksite and for not providing a safe work environment for its workers. The charges carry a maximum fine of up to $500,000.
The second was Ng Tze Lik, a director with Tat Ho Builder Pte Ltd. He was charged for failing to exercise diligence in his capacity as a director to ensure that reasonably practicable measures are put in place. Investigations also revealed that a safety and health management system was not implemented for the said worksite. The charges carry a maximum fine of $200,000 and/or a jail term of up to 24 months.
The third was Ng Choong Seng, the sole proprietor of New Sun Electrical Contractor. Ng was charged for failing to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure safety of the deceased. This includes failure to provide proper instructions to the deceased on installing the lightning conductor, failure to conduct risk assessment and implement safe work procedures for working at height as well as failure to provide personal protective equipment. The charges carry a maximum fine of $200,000 and/or a jail term of up to 24 months. Ng was also charged for allegedly modifying the scene of the fatal accident by putting a safety belt on the body of the deceased after the accident. This charge carries a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or a jail term of up to 24 months.
Summary of Investigation Findings
On 3 April 2007, the deceased worker, Veesam Venkateshwarlu, was painting a canopy above the 10th storey corridor of a residential block when he slipped and fell to his death. He was employed by Giftbuild Pte Ltd as a painter. Giftbuild was a subcontractor for Jotun (Singapore) Pte Ltd which was engaged to carry out repairs and redecoration of blocks of flats in Bukit Batok East. At the time of the accident, both the deceased and a co-worker had climbed out of a suspended scaffold/gondola and detached the lanyards of their body harnesses from the lifelines. They commenced painting at the opposite end of the canopy, which was approximately 12 metres away. The deceased slipped and fell off the canopy and landed on the ground floor.
MOM charged three parties in this case under the Workplace Safety and Health Act. The first was the sub-contractor, Giftbuild Pte Ltd, On 15 April 2009, Giftbuild was fined $70,000 for failing to ensure that the gondola was set up in a safe manner. This included ensuring proper access for painters to climb out of the gondola onto the canopy and providing adequate training and supervision for the painters.
The second was Giftbuild director Goh Eng Ban. He was fined $20,000 on 15 April 2009 for failing to exercise diligence in his capacity as a company director to establish and implement effective control measures to prevent painters from using unsafe painting methods at the worksite.
The third was the occupier of the worksite Jotun (Singapore) Pte Ltd. Jotun was fined $8,000 on 26 May 2009 for failing to ensure that the gondola used by the worker had a valid certificate. It was also fined $10,000 for failing to ensure that a notice was displayed prominently stating the safe working load of the gondola and maximum number of persons allowed in the gondola.
Summary of Investigation Findings
On 25 Oct 2007, the deceased worker, Yuan Guang Chuan, and a co-worker were assigned to brick laying works at the edge of an open side of a staircase. This was conducted at a site at Saiboo Street where Eng Lim Construction Co Pte Ltd was contracted to build three blocks of 10-storey residential buildings. To facilitate the brick laying work, the barricades at the edge of the open side of the staircase landing were removed. This created an open side at the staircase landing where the deceased was working. He was provided a safety belt but there was no place to safely anchor the belt. When the deceased tried to remove an embedded reinforcement bar at the edge of the staircase landing, he fell through the open side of the landing to the 3rd storey, about 23m below. The deceased died at the scene of the accident.
MOM charged the foreman of Eng Lim Construction Co Pte Ltd, Sun Yi Kun, on 28 May 2009 under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for permitting a person to work at a place from which he could be liable to fall a distance of more than 2 metres without any anchorage provided for safety belts. The foreman was fined $6,000.