SIA Engineering Company fined $230k for lapse in workplace safety and health resulting in worker's death

SIA Engineering Company was fined $230,000 on April 6.
SIA Engineering Company was fined $230,000 on April 6.ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC) was fined $230,000 on Thursday (April 6) over the death of a technician at Changi Hangar Complex about 3½ years ago.

Its employee, Mr Puvanalingam Balakrishnan, 34, was waiting to access the cargo compartment of a Boeing 777 aircraft at Hangar 3, Airline Road, on Oct 10, 2013, when a fuselage docking platform fell and pinned him underneath it.

The Malaysian was taken to Changi General Hospital where he died at 12.20am the next day from multiple injuries.

He was part of a team assigned to carry out maintenance work on the aircraft in the hangar at the time.

Mr Balakrishnan was waiting near the door to the cargo area underneath the starboard fuselage compartment of the aircraft to access the cargo compartment after the platform was repositioned. Suddenly, the platform fell.

SIAEC pleaded guilty on March 23, 2017, for failing to ensure that the docking platform was adequately maintained and safe for employees to use; provide adequate instructions to work safely within the workplace; and implement an adequate risk assessment.

Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Jonathan Sun told the court that investigation showed that a damaged screw jack was removed by Soon Fatt Engineering in July 2006 as it was found to be the cause of the docking platform's movement being stuck.

Soon Fatt notified SIAEC of the risk of the platform slipping and advised the company to look into a periodic programme to replace the remaining screw jacks, which included the forward starboard pair of screw jack units which failed on the day of the accident.

The company was also advised to replace the remaining screw jacks in December 2009.

Although SIAEC bought the set of screw jack in 2010, it did not follow up with Soon Fatt on replacing the remaining screw jacks.

Mr Sun submitted for a fine of $250,000 to be imposed as the three serious breaches committed by SIAEC contributed to the death of the worker.

The company's lawyer Niru Pillai said his client took immediate steps to review their processes, tighten their safety protocols and implement further safety procedures to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

He said his client gave Mr Puvanalingam's family an ex-gratia payment of $50,000 on compassionate grounds, and also paid for for his hospitalisation, funeral and related expenses totalling about $46,000.

SIAEC did not contest the family's civil claim which was settled for $380,000, he said.

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