SIAEC fined $230k for fatal safety lapse

Falling platform which caused technician's death had screw jacks that needed replacing

SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) was fined $230,000 yesterday for a workplace safety lapse which resulted in the death of a technician about 3 1/2 years ago.

The fatal accident happened at Changi Hangar Complex Hangar 3 in Airline Road at about 3.15pm on Oct 10, 2013.

Mr Puvanalingam Balakrishnan, 34, was waiting underneath the starboard fuselage docking platform as he wanted to access the cargo compartment of a Boeing 777 aircraft after the platform was repositioned.

Suddenly, the platform fell and pinned the Malaysian underneath it. He was taken to Changi General Hospital, where he died at 12.20am the next day from multiple injuries.

A representative of SIAEC pleaded guilty last month to failing to provide adequate instructions for workers to work safely, implement an adequate risk assessment, and ensure that the starboard fuselage docking platform was safe for use, resulting in the death of Mr Puvanalingam.

Investigations showed that SIAEC was aware of the risk of the docking platform slipping, through a quarterly maintenance service letter dated Aug 7, 2006, that highlighted problems with the platform's screw jacks.

Three years later, the company was also advised of the need to replace some screw jacks.

Although SIAEC later bought screw jacks in 2010, it did not replace the ones for that platform.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Jonathan Sun asked for a fine of $250,000 to be imposed as the breaches were not only serious but also over a period of time and a result of SIAEC's negligence.

SIAEC lawyer Niru Pillai said it took immediate steps to review its processes, tighten safety protocols and implement further safety procedures to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

He said his client accepted responsibility and settled with Mr Puvanaligam's family, including making additional payments to help them.

The maximum penalty for contravening the Workplace Safety and Health Act is a fine of $500,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 07, 2017, with the headline 'SIAEC fined $230k for fatal safety lapse'. Print Edition | Subscribe