Forklift supervisor's sentence increased to reflect culpability in worker's death

SINGAPORE - A supervisor who allowed an untrained worker to operate a forklift, resulting in the death of another worker, had his sentence raised from seven months to 11 months on Wednesday (Aug 10), following an appeal by the prosecution.

Yeduvaka Mali Naidu was employed by Chye Joo Marine in 2013 to perform grit blasting and painting works at a shipyard.

He had operated forklifts and supervised the work of other workers.

On May 26, 2019, he allowed untrained worker Shanmugam Sivarasu to operate a forklift at the shipyard.

Though the forklift had faulty brakes, workers had been using it to transfer spray painting equipment.

Some time after 5.40pm, Shanmugam attempted to use the forklift to transport a blasting pot.

But in his attempt to raise the forks, he wrongly stepped on the accelerator, causing the forklift to crash through a guardrail. It fell onto a slipway, killing a 30-year-old Bangladeshi worker and injuring another who had been standing near the forklift.

Investigations later found that Yeduvaka had allowed Shanmugam to operate forklifts on multiple occasions despite knowing that he was not trained to do so.

Shanmugam was later jailed for 11 months after pleading guilty to operating the equipment without the right training, knowing that it had faulty brakes.

Yeduvaka was sentenced to seven months' jail by a district judge after previously pleading guilty to a reckless act, endangering the safety of others.

On Wednesday, Justice Vincent Hoong said the sentence by the district judge was "manifestly inadequate" and raised it to 11 months' jail.

He said that the district judge had erred in assessing Yeduvaka's culpability as lower than Shanmugam's.

"It is undisputed that Shanmugam worked under the supervision of the respondent (Yeduvaka)," he said.

Justice Hoong said that the legislative intent of the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) was to improve workplace safety, and that the scope of liability was intended to be broad, imposing a duty on multiple persons at work to ensure the safety or health of themselves and others.

He added that it was in the public interest to ensure that those in positions of authority under the WSHA behave in a manner that respects the safety of those under them.

He found that Yeduvaka's culpability in this case was at least on a par with Shanmugam's.

For his reckless act, Yeduvaka could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $200,000.

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