Crocodile idea adds bite to safety device

Assistant technical engineer Shamimul Islam Md Rezaul Karim adjusting the c-dile device, which won Jurong Shipyard a prize in the innovation category at the annual Workplace Safety and Health Awards last night.
Assistant technical engineer Shamimul Islam Md Rezaul Karim adjusting the c-dile device, which won Jurong Shipyard a prize in the innovation category at the annual Workplace Safety and Health Awards last night.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Gripping image inspires shipyard team's award-winning solution

Watching a crocodile attacking its prey in a wildlife documentary gave a Jurong Shipyard engineer an award-winning solution to a longstanding safety problem.

Mr Chan Yuan Hua, 26, shared his plan of replicating the reptile's gripping jaw with his colleagues, and the result was the "c-dile".

The circular contraption with eight metal screws or "teeth" can grip on to a piston head and support its weight while workers remove it during maintenance.

"It is so much easier and safer now," said Mr Kelvin Thang, an assistant section manager of the shipyard's HVAC and hydraulics department, and one of the seven colleagues behind the device.

"Previously we had to manually unscrew the piston head and relied on a lifting belt and overhead crane to support its weight. There was nothing to secure it.

"One worker almost got his fingers crushed two years ago when it slipped from the belt," added the 30-year-old, pointing out that a piston head, one of the components of a hydraulic cylinder often found on ships and cranes, can weigh up to 70kg.

His colleague, 27-year-old assistant technical engineer Shamimul Islam Md Rezaul Karim, said: "We used to need at least one hour to take out a piston head. Now it takes only 15 to 20 minutes."

Jurong Shipyard was one of 190 recipients at the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Awards last night, clinching a prize in the innovation category for the c-dile machine.

"Collectively, these companies have achieved an injury-free period of more than 364 million man hours. This translates to over 147,000 workers going home safely to their families last year," said Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, speaking at the award ceremony at Marina Bay Sands.

He added that businesses have achieved higher WSH standards, given that the number of award recipients has remained consistent despite the criteria becoming more stringent each year.

Mr Tan also said that his ministry will review the existing Code of Practice on WSH risk management by the end of this year.

This new Code, which will be launched early next year along with a simplified risk management guide for workers, will reflect three key principles, he explained.

First, risk management should not be a mere "paper exercise", but actually implemented.

Second, risks should be reduced at their source or mitigated with control measures. Lastly, companies should also take into account the personal health of employees on top of traditional workplace risk factors.

"Our ageing workforce will become more prone to work-related ill-health, which will impact on the safety of workers," he said. "There is a pressing need for employers to start looking into integrating (employee) well-being in (their) WSH approach."

Stressing that it is important for businesses to build a strong WSH culture, Mr Tan added: "It is really about the culture. It needs to be ingrained into not just management, but...into the rank and file as well. Everyone's behaviour needs to be aligned towards the common goal of avoiding harm to people."

Mr Thang agreed that workplace safety is something that requires teamwork.

"What's very important is feedback from our workers," he said, insisting that his company's crocodile-inspired invention was partly born from safety concerns being identified.

"The best way to identify problems and hazards is through people who are directly on the ground," he said. "Only then can ideas be generated and processes can be improved."

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg