SMRT director fined over death of trainees

Teo Wee Kiat also failed to ensure the procedures passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.
Teo Wee Kiat also failed to ensure the procedures passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He gets $55,000 fine for failing to take measures to ensure safety

The director of control operations at rail operator SMRT Trains was fined $55,000 yesterday over the death of two trainees, who were hit by a passenger train on March 22 last year. Teo Wee Kiat, 41, admitted to failing to take necessary measures to ensure the safety of SMRT's employees, such as making sure that they complied with the approved operating procedures when accessing the train track during traffic hours.

He also failed to ensure the procedures passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

The trainees, Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 25, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were part of a 15-member team sent to check an apparent fault relating to switching equipment when a train hit them near Pasir Ris MRT station.

It was SMRT's worst fatal rail accident and the operator was given a record fine of $400,000 in February over the same breach.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala said SMRT employees had received permission from the Operations Control Centre (OCC) to enter the train tracks during traffic hours, without first sticking to certain safety procedures stipulated.

Investigations showed such practices had been allowed to perpetuate for some time before the accident.

While heading the OCC, Teo knew that it had been permitting employees to conduct track access in contravention of "Unit 3C OP", a set of documented operating procedures to govern track access during traffic hours , said the DPP.

He urged District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt to impose a fine of at least $60,000, taking into account Teo's personal culpability, and the potential and actual harm caused.

The Ministry of Manpower said yesterday that SMRT employees had not been complying with "Unit 3C OP" from as early as 2002, and the frequency of them using such unapproved methods of track access had increased from 2007.

In mitigation, Teo's lawyer Adam Maniam from Drew & Napier said his client voluntarily took steps to fix the problems that had led to the incident before he was charged.

He said Teo set up a dedicated unit to coordinate and control track access for works during non-traffic hours, and took over control of the maintenance operations centre.

The maximum penalty for the offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act is a $200,000 fine and two years' jail.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'SMRT director fined over death of trainees'. Print Edition | Subscribe