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Contractor Fined $205,000 for Fatal Accident, Project Director and Four Others Jailed for Falsifying Safety Permit

  1. A project director and four others have been sentenced to jail under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act for falsifying a permit-to-work (“PTW”) following an investigation into a fatal accident on 29 January 2016 at a construction site in Tampines. The project director who was overall-in-charge of all matters at the worksite and the site manager who was responsible for all matters relating to safety, work progression and quality, were further fined $900 and $7,500 respectively.

  2. In connection with the same fatal accident, Qingjian International (South Pacific) Group Development Co Pte Ltd, which was contracted to provide project management services at the worksite, has been fined $205,000 for failing in its duties as an employer under section 20 r/w section 12(1) of WSH Act. CNQC Engineering & Construction Pte Ltd (formerly known as Qingdao Construction (Singapore) Pte Ltd) has also been charged for failing in its duties as an occupier under section 20 r/w section 11(a) of the WSH Act.

    Case Background

  3. On 25 January 2016, Wang Shiyang (“Wang”) who was employed by Qingjian as a site manager, instructed Zhu Yong Bing, site supervisor from Qingjian, to construct a septic tank 3.6 metres deep at the worksite. A PTW had to be first issued by Wang before any excavation work deeper than 1.5 metres can begin. 

  4. Without applying for any PTW, Zhu Yong Bing engaged a licensed excavator operator to excavate the area where the septic tank was to be constructed on 28 January 2016. 

  5. On 29 January 2016, with excavation works completed, Zhu Yong Bing tasked Xu Shangbin (the “Deceased”) and five other workers to get inside the excavation to erect formwork structures and rebars. Zhu Yong Bing decided to start concrete casting for the septic tank later on the same day. He instructed the Deceased and two other workers to get into the excavation so they could spread the concrete once it has been poured.

  6. Zhu Yong Bing, who is an unlicensed excavator operator, operated an excavator with a concrete bucket attached to the excavator’s lifting hook to pour concrete into the pit. In his second attempt at pouring concrete, when the excavator’s arm was extended to reach out to the position where the concrete cement was to be poured, the excavator started to topple. Xu Shangbin, who remained inside the pit, was struck by the concrete bucket and died due to multiple injuries sustained.

    MOM’s Investigations

  7. MOM’s investigations revealed that following a meeting at Qingdao’s headquarters on 30 January 2016, a day after the fatal accident, Zhu Yong Bing, Wang, WSH officer from Qingdao Zhu Xiaoyi, safety coordinator from Qingdao Rathinam Ramesh (“Ramesh”) and project director from Qingjian Chan Yew Cheong (“Chan”) signed on a backdated PTW form. This was intended to give the false impression that a PTW was properly issued before excavation works were carried out on 28 January 2016.

  8. Before commencing any excavation work, Zhu Yong Bing ought to have applied for a PTW to be evaluated by safety coordinator Ramesh, and assessed and approved by WSH officer Zhu Xiaoyi. The PTW should then have been issued by Wang in his capacity as a site manager. However, as Wang had not attended the construction safety course for project manager at the material time, the PTW would have to be counter-signed by Chan for approval prior to issuance.

  9. The falsification of PTW was uncovered following separate interviews conducted by MOM investigators with the five employees involved in the falsification.

  10. By signing the PTW, the five employees falsely declared that the necessary safety measures were put in place before excavation work began. These safety measures entailed:  
    i) Briefing workers involved on safe work procedures; 
    ii) Ensuring workers were attired with the required personal protective equipment;
    iii) Sloping the soil bank according to requirement;
    iv) Barricading the open edge of the excavation;
    v) Removing all material or machinery near the excavation;
    vi) Providing proper access to the excavation; and
    vii) Displaying safety signage at conspicuous locations.

    Sentences of the Employer and Five Employees

  11. The sentencing details for the employer and five employees are tabled below.
Employee   Role/Designation     Offence(s) charged for and the sentences meted out
Chan Yew Cheong  Project director with Qingjian 
  • Falsification of PTW (10 days’ imprisonment)
  • Failure to maintain a safe and healthy work environment for workers by setting out the general standards in the form of standard operating standards stated in Qingdao’s Workplace Safety and Environment Management System manual. The Manual also identifies key personnel at the Worksite and defines their roles and responsibilities with regard to safety, among other things. Chan was responsible for the implementation of the Manual at the Worksite ($900 fine)
               
 Wang Shiyang  Site manager with Qingdao 
  • Falsification of PTW (10 days’ imprisonment)
  • Failure to monitor and ensure the progress of a high risk construction work – the excavation of a pit that exceeded 1.5 metres in depth – with due regard to workers’ safety and health ($7,500 fine)
               
 Zhu Xiaoyi WSH officer with Qingdao
  • Falsification of PTW (1 week’s imprisonment)

 Rathinam Ramesh Safety coordinator with Qingdao
  • Falsification of PTW (1 week’s imprisonment)

 Zhu Yong Bing  Site Supervisor with Qingjian 
  • Falsification of PTW (Charge was taken into consideration for the purpose of sentencing)
  • Performed a reckless act which endangered the safety of others by operating an excavator that he was neither trained nor authorised to use, leading to the excavator toppling (3 months’ imprisonment)
               
 Qingjian International (South Pacific) Group Development Co Pte Ltd   Employer
  • Failure to take measures that were necessary to ensure the safety and health of its employees at work (Fined $205,000)

12. In addition, MOM will be revoking Zhu Xiaoyi’s WSH Officer registration.

13. Mr Sebastian Tan (陈仕豪), MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said, “As key members managing the project and overseeing the construction works at the worksite, the five employees were responsible for ensuring that necessary safety measures were implemented before carrying out the excavation works. Not only did they fail to do so, they also wilfully misled MOM’s investigation by submitting a falsified Permit to Work form. The MOM takes a serious view of those who attempt to impede investigations and will press for custodial sentences against them.”