Director, company fined over death of worker who fell from platform after collision with crane

Investigations found that Ng Chin Sang knew that workers were using the crane freely regardless of their level of training. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A construction worker was carrying out electrical work on a platform at a height of about 8m when a crane collided with it, causing it to topple. Mr Kaliyaperumal Manikandan, then 22, fell to his death.

Investigations found that Ng Chin Sang, the director of Fusion Builders - the company involved - knew that workers were using the crane freely regardless of their level of training.

Ng, a 72-year-old Singaporean, was fined $60,000 on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty to a charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

His company was fined $250,000 for its role in the offence.

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutor Gregory Gan said in court documents that Fusion Builders was awarded a contract to erect a four-storey industrial factory block at 22 Tuas Avenue 6, as well as for additions and alterations to an existing workshop.

The firm engaged Long Way Electrical Contract to carry out electrical installation work. Mr Kaliyaperumal was employed by that firm as a construction worker.

On June 6, 2017, Mr Kaliyaperumal was working at a height of about 7.7m on a scissor lift - a mobile elevated work platform - carrying out electrical cabling work on the cable tray mounted on the third-floor wall.

At the same time, other workers were using a crane to transport rubbish bags to the first floor for disposal.

The crane collided with the scissor lift, causing the platform to topple towards the floor.

Mr Kaliyaperumal fell off the platform and landed on the ground floor of the building. Paramedics at the scene pronounced him dead at about 6.30pm.

The cause of death was subsequently ascertained to be from multiple injuries, consistent with a fall from height.

Prosecutor Gan said investigations revealed that while only one worker had been trained to operate the crane, others who were not trained were allowed to operate it, and that Ng was aware of this.

"He knew the workers used the (crane) freely regardless of their level of training and that the remote controls were passed around among workers," said the prosecutor.

Prosecutor Gan added that the company failed to prevent incompatible works involving the concurrent use of the crane and scissor lift from being carried out, and that it also failed to implement measures to warn workers on the scissor lift of the approach of the crane.

Mr Sebastian Tan, MOM's director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said on Thursday: "This death was entirely preventable, if not for the negligence of Fusion and Ng. The company's multiple safety breaches show a lack of emphasis on workers' safety.

"Top management must take ownership of workplace safety and health, and take the lead to inculcate a strong safety culture at the workplace, so that workers can follow suit. All stakeholders must make workplace safety and health a priority."

Mr Kaliyaperumal's death was one of 42 workplace deaths that year. The annual workplace death rate dropped gradually between 2018 and 2020 before increasing in the last two years.

There have been 37 workplace deaths so far in 2022, the same as for the whole of 2021.

Following the spate of fatalities this year, a code of practice meant to improve workplace safety culture in Singapore was launched in September. It includes measures such as setting up internal reporting systems that assure workers of fair treatment.

The code will be gazetted in October, meaning that if a company commits an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, the courts will be able to consider compliance with these measures in their judgment.

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