Construction firm director who died from 4.7m fall at worksite did not wear safety harness

Mr Koh Kok Heng died after falling through an opening in a floor of a two-storey house near Dunearn Road on Feb 10, 2021.
Mr Koh Kok Heng died after falling through an opening in a floor of a two-storey house near Dunearn Road on Feb 10, 2021.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - JMS Construction had identified falling from height as a potential safety hazard in the alteration works to a semi-detached house near Dunearn Road.

But the court heard during a coroner's inquiry on Monday (Oct 4) that the company did not implement measures to guard against that risk.

Its director Koh Kok Heng, 53, died on Feb 10 this year after falling 4.7m through an opening in a floor of the two-storey property at 38 University Walk.

He was bleeding from his nose, ears and mouth when he landed on a staircase and was pronounced dead at 12.45pm at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Mr Koh, a permanent resident from Malaysia, was one of two company directors at JMS.

Part of the work the company was doing at the house was to add an attic.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) later ordered JMS to stop all work at the site.

During the one-day inquiry, senior investigation officer Ng Chee Hwee from MOM's occupational safety and health division told the court that neither Mr Koh nor his workers were wearing safety harnesses.

There was no safety net installed to catch any falling person or object.

"Safety harnesses were available but (neither) the late Mr Koh (nor) the workers working at the attic wore them," said Mr Ng.

JMS also did not have a permit to work on the day of the accident, he added.

He said MOM is contemplating taking action against JMS but did not give further details.

At around 11.20am on the day of the accident, Mr Koh instructed some of his workers to carry out welding and housekeeping work at the attic, which had holes in the floor covered with plywood.

As some of the holes were not covered fully, he told the workers to get more nails and plywood.

Moments later, one of the workers heard a loud thud and found that Mr Koh had fallen leg-first through a hole.

He landed in a "seating position" on the stairs with a piece of plywood on his head, Mr Ng said. His workers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him.

Police investigation officer Esther Chan said on Monday that Mr Koh could have either stepped on the plywood covering the hole or lost his balance while adjusting the plywood.

The manner in which he fell through the hole was not clear as none of the six workers at the scene saw him fall, she added.

State Coroner Adam Nakhoda will deliver his findings on Nov 9.