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Employer fined $290,000 after worker was fatally pinned by heavy casings during lifting operations

  1. ZAP Piling Pte. Ltd. (“the company”) was fined $290,000 for an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for a fatal incident on 9 June 2016 at a machinery storage yard located at 6 Kranji Link, that resulted in the death of a worker, Arumugam Elango (the “Deceased”).

    Case Background
  2. On 7 June 2016, Tay Tong Tham@Tay Tong Leong (“Tham”), a Director of the company, instructed site supervisor Tay Tong Chuan (“Tay”) to perform a functional test of a bore piling machine at the premises for the first time. Tay did not receive any particular instructions on safety matters.
  3. On 9 June 2016, the functional test was conducted again for the third time, involving the Deceased and other workers. Tay instructed crawler crane (“crane”) operator Cai Guanglin (“Cai”) to shift a boring bucket (“bucket”) that was in front of the bore piling machine to another location, next to a stack of bore pile casings (“the casings”). After rigging the bucket with the crane’s chain slings, the Deceased moved to a tight space between the bore piling machine and the stack of casings, about 1.4 metres apart. As the crane, operated by Cai, was shifting the bucket to place it next to the stacked casings, the bucket knocked against the casings, causing some of them to topple and pin the Deceased against the track of the bore piling machine. Each of the fallen casings weighed about 1.76 tonnes. The Deceased was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple injuries.

    MOM’s Investigations
  4. MOM’s investigations revealed that the company failed to:
    i) Conduct an adequate risk assessment before testing the bore pile machine at the premises;
    ii) Establish an appropriate safe work procedure in relation to the functional test of the bore pile machine, as well as brief all the employees on the risks involved or the necessary safety measures to take before they took on their respective roles;
    iii) Apply for a permit-to-work, as required for lifting operations in accordance to the Code of Practice on “Safe Lifting Operations in the Workplaces”, which would have ensured that the appropriate safety measures were in place before work commenced;
    iv) Establish and implement a lifting plan, which would have required the company to mark the zone of operation for the lift, consider the physical factors such as obstructions existing at the time of the lift and establish an effective means of communication amongst the various workers involved; and
    v) Ensure proper housekeeping arrangements at the premises, such as putting in place effective supporting structures to ensure the casings are stabilised to prevent their collapse. The risk of a load coming into contact with the casings in the tight and congested premises was high and it was foreseeable that there can be accidental dislodgement.
  5. Mr Sebastian Tan, MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said, “The company performed lifting works without securing the necessary permits, conducting risk assessments, establishing a proper lifting plan or putting in place safe work procedures. If it had taken these measures before commencing the lifting works, the obvious risks would have been addressed. The congested and disorganised premises were also hazardous to the workers. The company’s numerous and glaring oversights in ensuring their workers’ safety resulted in a loss of life. A heavy fine was sought to remind employers not to blatantly disregard the safety of their workers.”