Construction company fined $165,000 over death of worker who was crushed by wall panel

Win Cheng Construction was fined $165,000 over the death of its employee Mr Chinnadurai Rajadurai.
Win Cheng Construction was fined $165,000 over the death of its employee Mr Chinnadurai Rajadurai.PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A 24-year-old worker plastering the base of a pre-cast wall panel at the construction site of a terrace home died after the 126kg concrete wall fell on him.

Several workers lifted the 1.5m high, 0.6m wide, and 0.1m thick panel off the worker, who was unconscious and bleeding profusely from his head.

He died in hospital about 1½ hours later from "extensive cranio-cerebral injuries" on Oct 24, 2013.

On Tuesday (March 29), Win Cheng Construction was fined $165,000 over the death of its employee Mr Chinnadurai Rajadurai.

The company pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching the Workplace Safety and Health Act, by failing to ensure that its pre-cast wall panels were adequately supported during the installation process.

A district court heard that on Oct 24, 2013, Mr Chinnadurai, an Indian national, had been tasked to install Acotec wall panels for the external boundary walls of three terrace units under construction near Bukit Batok Road.

Bukit Batok Development had engaged Seah Construction to build 115 units of three storey terrace houses and two units of three storey semi-detached houses in Pavilion Circle, near Pavilion Rise.

Seah Construction had, in turn, got Win Cheng Construction to build the apron drains, car park slabs and external boundary walls for about 52 houses.

Mr Chinnadurai and two other workers had installed four of out of five remaining wall panels at unit no. 92, when their supervisor told them to return to their dormitories after installing the last panel.

The three workers lifted the fifth panel and placed it in an upright position to prepare it for installation.

Mr Chinnadurai then went to take a bucket of cement to plaster the sides and base of the panels to join them together.

As he was plastering the bottom of the third wall panel at about 8.25pm, it collapsed, along with two other wall panels.

Mr Chinnadurai's colleagues saw him pinned underneath the third wall panel and shouted for help. They also tried to lift the wall but to no avail.

Several workers, who were resting in their dormitory at the construction site, came over to help them.

Ministry of Manpower prosecuting officer Ameerhan Shikandar Mydin urged the court to impose a fine of at least $180,000, noting the accident could have been prevented.

He said: "The lack of proper anchorage and adequate support exposed the workers to the risk of being struck by falling panels. The risk of the panels falling was clearly a foreseeable one that the accused company was aware of."

Win Cheng had failed to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment for work at the construction site, nor did it provide its workers with a detailed method for installing the panels, he said.

"The courts play an ever important role in the fight against errant companies who proceed with work with a malaise attitude to workplace safety and health and in the prevention of future accidents," the prosecutor added.

"This accident is a poignant reminder that safety at the workplace is a matter of paramount importance and must be taken seriously."

The maximum punishment for a company which contravenes the Workplace Safety and Health Act is a $500,000 fine.