Hebei worker died of heatstroke on 1st day of work

In the heart of winter last December, 43-year-old Pei Yingjun left his hometown in Qinhuangdao City in Hebei province, China, where the average temperature had been between minus 7 and 3 deg C.

But one week later, the construction worker was dead from a heatstroke. It was only his first day working in the sweltering heat of up to 32 deg C on the scaffolding of a building being erected in Jurong.

He had not been given the 14-day heat acclimatisation period required by the Manpower Ministry.

Mr Pei's colleagues also did not appear to recognise that he was having a heatstroke and took him to a private hospital, which was not fully equipped to handle such a case.

Yesterday, State Coroner Marvin Bay found Mr Pei's death to be an unfortunate industrial accident. "The sad learning point from Mr Pei's demise is that employers should conscientiously implement acclimatisation plans for workers before they start work in a hot environment."

He said workers should be provided with appropriate hydration and a cool area to rest and recover. And employers and workers should also be trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of heatstroke.

Mr Pei, who was married, left Hebei for Singapore on Dec 14 to work for Rong Da Builders. He went for a medical check-up on Dec 16, and a two-day mandatory Construction Safety Orientation Course on Dec 17 and 18. On Dec 19, he went for an on-site safety orientation course and then worked under sheltered conditions that day and on Dec 20.

On Dec 21, he was assigned to do scaffolding work in a team of 14 from 7.30am. He was paired with a worker who had worked on the Penjuru Lane site for five months. Mr Pei stopped for his lunch break between 11.30am and 1pm.

At about 4.30pm, Mr Pei was seen leaving the site. A foreman went to look for him and found him lying with his helmet by his side in the dormitory room, with two fans placed to direct air towards his head and legs. When touched, he opened his eyes but did not say anything. His forehead felt very hot.

Mr Pei was undressed and placed in the corridor and later sent to West Point Hospital, where he had to be resuscitated. His temperature was 40.9 deg C. He was later sent to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital by ambulance, where resuscitation attempts continued, but he was pronounced dead at 6.48pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2016, with the headline 'Hebei worker died of heatstroke on 1st day of work'. Print Edition | Subscribe