PIE work site collapse a 'man-made incident'; Lim Swee Say singles out inadequate attention to design, construction and worker safety

Preliminary investigations have found that failed corbels were responsible for the collapse of a section of the viaduct at Upper Changi Road East on July 14.
Preliminary investigations have found that failed corbels were responsible for the collapse of a section of the viaduct at Upper Changi Road East on July 14.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The collapse of a viaduct section at Upper Changi Road East two weeks ago killing one and injuring 10 was due to a human lapse, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say revealed on Tuesday (Jul 25) evening.

"One thing for sure is that this is a man-made incident that could have been avoided if everyone involved in this project had paid enough attention to the design and construction of the viaduct and the safety of workers," said Mr Lim at the annual Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) awards at Resorts World Sentosa.

Speaking to a crowd of 1,400 construction industry players, Mr Lim called the incident a "wake-up call" and warned against complacency and taking workplace safety and health for granted.

His comments offered a first glimpse into the outcome of the multi-agency investigation looking into the collapse's cause. It claimed the life of Chinese worker Chen Yinchuan and injured 10 others.

Said Mr Lim: "(He) came to Singapore just three months ago to work as a construction worker. It was his first time working in Singapore. He wanted to earn and save more for his three-year-old son, but instead, he lost his life here."


As of Tuesday, six remain warded in hospital. Three are Chinese nationals, six are Bangladeshi and one is from India. Chinese worker Gao Li Qin is currently in critical condition, said Mr Lim. The Straits Times understands that his condition took a turn for the better on Tuesday, though he remains in the intensive care unit.

The 2015 Land Transport Authority tender to build a viaduct linking the Tampines Expressway and the Pan-Island Expressway was won by construction firm Or Kim Peow Contractors and project consultants CPG Consultants.


A preliminary investigation found that the reinforced concrete corbels - supporting structures that protrude from vertical columns and hold up the horizontal beams - had given way. All work at the site has been ordered to stop.

The incident underscored the need to keep the "heat" up on companies which do not meet safety standards, but also recognise those that invest in safe work place practices, said Mr Lim.

"What we really want to see is for more companies to not just feel the "heat" but more importantly, to also see the "light" - to recognise that investment in workplace safety and health is good for both workers and the business."

At the event, a total of 172 WSH awards were handed out to companies and individuals to recognise good WSH management in their workplaces. Mr Lim hailed them for upholding safety and health in the workplace, extending their WSH responsibilities beyond their own employees and finding innovations in safety.

He singled out Rockwell Automation Asia Pacific Business Center, which has had zero injuries in the past decade. "The secret of their success lies in paying attention not only to injuries, but also near misses," said Mr Lim. "Studying near misses can help companies take pre-emptive action so that accidents will not happen."

"For Rockwell, every near miss is tracked, reported and investigated seriously as if it was a Lost Workday Injury."

Mr Reggie Lim, real estate developer Lendlease's head of environment, health and safety assurance in Asia, said collaboration between the Government and key industry players can promote safe practices by creating "a ripple effect" in the industry. His firm bagged six WSH awards.

CDL Group general manager Chia Ngiang Hong, whose firm received the WSH Developer award for the 10th consecutive year, said creating a strong environmental, health and safety culture is an ongoing process.

"Our building and construction sector is exposed to high risks, particularly at worksites, and it is of paramount importance that developers and industry stakeholders work closely to help keep our worksites safe," said Mr Chia.

WSH Council chairman Heng Chiang Gnee said: "We must not take things for granted and expect that we will go home safe and healthy at the end of each work day. As a reminder, the reality is that 66 workers did not make it home last year."