Paralysed worker sues employer and contractor

Mr Chen (above), who is from Jiangsu, was squatting and dismantling wire ties at the base of the cage when it toppled over, knocking him unconscious.
Mr Chen (above), who is from Jiangsu, was squatting and dismantling wire ties at the base of the cage when it toppled over, knocking him unconscious.

A construction worker from China who was paralysed from the waist down after a steel cage fell on him is suing his employer and the main contractor for compensation.

Mr Chen Qiangshi, 43, was among several workers helping to move a steel-bar cage that had been wrongly installed at the worksite of an industrial building in Mandai on Dec 26, 2012.

Mr Chen, who is from Jiangsu, was squatting and dismantling wire ties at the base of the cage when it toppled over, knocking him unconscious, the High Court heard yesterday.

He was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital for emergency treatment and eventually spent more than six months recuperating, first at Ang Mo Kio Community Hospital and then at a nursing home before returning to China.

Mr Chen, who came to court in a wheelchair yesterday, is suing his employer, Hong Fei CDY Construction, and main contractor Evan Lim & Co. He alleges that they did not provide him with the required safety equipment and that there had been inadequate preventive measures.

The cage - 6.8m high, 1.5m long and 0.6m wide - had been installed in an upright position at a wrong location. Mr Chen said in court that it weighed a ton.

Workers were supposed to hook hoist chains from a tower crane to support it. Wire ties secured earlier were then to be untied before the cage was lifted to its new location.

Mr Chen, represented by Mr N. Srinivasan, said the chains were hooked from outside the cage instead of from the top as usual.

The defendants, represented by Mr Ramesh Appoo, dispute Mr Chen's account and contend that he was to blame for the accident.

They claim that he refused to follow safe work procedures and was the one who had hooked the chains from the outside and untied the wire ties without making sure the cage was properly rigged, causing it to topple.

A two-day hearing started in the High Court yesterday on the issue of liability. The amount of compensation, if any, will be assessed after liability is established. Claims in the High Court are at least $250,000.

selinal@sph.com.sg