Company Fined $210,000 and Supervisor Jailed for Accident that Caused Worker to be Wheelchair-Bound
- Ava Global Pte Ltd was fined $210,000 for committing breaches as an employer under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (“WSHA”) that resulted in a workplace accident on 14 September 2016, where one of its workers was left permanently disabled. For that same accident, Ava Global Pte Ltd’s construction foreman, Sarkar Mithun (“Sarkar”), was sentenced to nine weeks’ imprisonment for his negligent act under the WSHA.
Background of incident
- Ava Global Pte Ltd was sub-contracted by Ken-Pal (S) Pte Ltd to carry out façade-related works on a building belonging to the National University of Singapore. Ava Global Pte Ltd appointed Sarkar as a foreman to supervise the installation of tubular ceiling panels within the premises but did not give Sarkar any installation instructions. Sarkar decided on the method of installation himself, based on his observations on how the panels were installed previously by a different company.
- On 14 September 2016, under Sarkar’s supervision, a worker employed by Ava Global Pte Ltd, Miah Jobayed (“Jobayed”), went up to the ceiling level using a boom lift. He then climbed above the ceiling panel level and stood on a steel structure without any fall protection equipment. The boom lift was subsequently used by Sarkar and another worker to bring a panel up to the ceiling level. As Sarkar and the other worker lifted the panel above their heads and were aligning the panel into position, Jobayed, who was standing on the steel structure above them, moved to stand on one of the previously installed ceiling panels.
- The panel that Jobayed stood on dislodged and swung downwards, causing him to fall 5.5 metres to the ground. Jobayed was conveyed to the National University Hospital and underwent surgery. He sustained spinal cord injury which resulted in permanent paralysis, and had to be wheelchair-bound permanently.
- MOM’s investigations revealed that Sarkar did not obtain a permit-to-work (“PTW”) before carrying out the installation process. Supervisors must obtain a PTW from an authorised manager before commencing any work that is more than three metres above ground. The PTW allows for an independent safety evaluation on the procedures and methods involved in the works to be conducted before commencement. In this case, Sarkar decided on the procedures and methods on his own. He also failed to ensure that the workers wore safety harnesses or helmets.
- Sarkar’s sentencing is the second custodial sentence1 imposed on a supervisor for a negligent act in a workplace. Supervisors have a duty to ensure a safe working environment for workers under their care and forbid unsafe work practices that may put them at risk.
- Ava Global Pte Ltd, as an employer, also had the duty to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of his employees. In this case, the company failed to:
- manage the risks arising from the installation of tubular ceiling panels;
- establish a proper method of carrying out the installation;
- obtain a permit-to-work before carrying out hazardous work at height;
- ensure that all the employees were adequately trained to carried out their tasks; and
- ensure that employees were using personal protective equipment.
- Mr Sebastian Tan (陈仕豪), Director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate noted that the incident could have been prevented if the employer and supervisor had taken the time to obtain a PTW and manage the safety risks before commencing work. He said, “Employers and supervisors must ensure that they implement reasonable and practicable measures at the workplace, and must not knowingly put the lives of their workers at risk. In this instance, there was no culture of care and trust evident at the worksite. As a result, a worker is now wheelchair-bound for life. The MOM will not hesitate to take action against employers and supervisors who blatantly disregard their workers’ safety and health.”
1 A construction foreman for GS Engineering & Construction Corp, Nurun Novi Saydur Rahman, was previously sentenced on 2 November 2018 to 25 weeks’ imprisonment for committing a negligent act that led to the deaths of two workers in a workplace accident on 22 January 2014.