Air-con technician's fall from ladder an unfortunate industrial misadventure, says coroner

The state coroner found the death of Mr Lai Yong Soon, who fell from an A-frame ladder, to be an unfortunate industrial misadventure.
The state coroner found the death of Mr Lai Yong Soon, who fell from an A-frame ladder, to be an unfortunate industrial misadventure. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A portable step platform rather than A-frame ladders should be used when air-conditioner technicians carry out manual disassembly and shift bulky components, a coroner said on Thursday (Feb 2).

State Coroner Marvin Bay was giving his findings at an inquest into the death of Malaysian air-con technician Lai Yong Soon, 39, who fell from the sixth of a 10-step A-frame ladder while trying to mount a 15kg cleaned ceiling cassette fan coil air-con unit with his co-worker in the master bedroom at a house in Jalan Tai See, off Sixth Avenue.

Mr Lai died of head injuries eight days later - on Aug 31, 2016.

According to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued Code of Practice for Work Safely at Heights, a portable step platform gives the user a more stable foothold.

Any person using an A-frame ladder should maintain at least three points of support when ascending, or descending, from the ladder.

A person should also not be bearing any load on his arms when moving up or down a ladder.

The inquiry heard that the two men had gone to the house on Aug 23 to service a faulty Daikin air-con.

After cleaning the ceiling cassette unit, Mr Lai and his co-worker Tan Hou Fatt began to reinstall the unit back to the air-con. They climbed up their respective ladders bearing the 15-kg fan coil unit between them.

Mr Lai lost his balance and fell 1.5m, hitting his head twice on the wooden parquet floor. Mr Tan had also lost his balance but managed to jump off his ladder. He was unhurt.

Mr Lai had lost consciousness for about five minutes before he regained consciousness.

He was taken to National University Hospital. He collapsed suddenly six hours later and became unconscious. He died on Aug 31 at 7.26am.

Coroner Bay said Mr Lai's sad demise underscores the importance of adopting safe work practices when working from height.

He said Mr Lai and Mr Tan's activity was made even more hazardous by the fact that the two men, already destabilised by having to carry the load up a ladder, had to also co-ordinate their movements.

Any failure to synchronise their movements at each step, and maintain their balance across the tandem ladders would have caused further destabilisation.

MOM's senior investigation officer testified that a third worker should have been on hand to pass the air-con component parts, from the ground, to the the workers who were working at height on portable step platforms.

Coroner Bay found Mr Lai's death to be an unfortunate industrial misadventure.