Firm fined $200k over worker electrocuted to death

MW Group convicted for failing to establish safe work procedures for machine

Equipment calibration and testing company MW Group has been hit with a $200,000 fine for a fatal workplace incident where a worker was electrocuted.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement yesterday that the firm was convicted after a five-day trial over its workplace safety and health lapses.

These include failing to conduct a specific risk assessment and establish safe work procedures for the calibration and testing of an arc reflection system (ARS) machine.

On Nov 7, 2013, Mr Suyambu Suman was asked to test and calibrate the ARS machine at Pantech Business Hub.

He held a high voltage probe to test the ARS from 2kV to 12kV. During the test, he fell backwards and became unconscious.

He died later that day, with the cause of death certified as electrocution.

Investigations revealed that although MW Group had conducted a generic risk assessment for electrical testing prior to the accident and electrocution was identified as the only hazard, no control measures were put in place.

"The technicians working on the day of the accident were not aware of any risk assessment, safe work procedures or any other control measures to protect them from electrocution when testing and calibration of the ARS machine," the MOM statement said.

The Energy Market Authority, in its investigations into the accident, concluded that no proper test fixtures were set up before the start of the high voltage calibration works.

In addition, Mr Suyambu did not maintain a safe working distance of approximately 1.5m from the "live" terminals.

The MOM statement said that as the DC output voltage level of the ARS gradually increased, this difference between Mr Suyambu's body and the probe to test the ARS he was holding resulted in a flashover, which is a type of electrical explosion.

This caused Mr Suyambu to fall backwards unconscious.

Mr Chan Yew Kwong, MOM's director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said: "The employer knew that the technicians were exposed to the risk of electrocution and yet failed to provide the technicians with a step-by-step guide on how to do the job safely.

"It is the employer's duty to ensure no works are carried out without appropriate safeguards."

He added that companies which disregard their workers' safety would be taken to task.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 20, 2018, with the headline 'Firm fined $200k over worker electrocuted to death'. Print Edition | Subscribe