Cargo lift linked to woman's death at catering firm not tested; victim's head was caught between lift and landing

   The system was not compliant with Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations, said State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam on May 24, 2019.
The system was not compliant with Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations, said State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam on May 24, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A woman died from a severe head injury last year in an accident involving a lift-like hoist structure in Admiralty which the state coroner found was never tested by an authorised examiner.

Made up of a cage lifted by an electric chain hoist, the system was used to move items between a storage area on the mezzanine level and a food packaging area on the first storey.

The system was not compliant with Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations, said State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam last Friday (May 24).

In an inquiry into Madam Zarimah Mohamad's death, the coroner noted that every hoist-way used at the workplace must be protected by a "substantial enclosure fitted with gates".

When shut, such gates would "prevent any person from falling down the hoist-way or coming into contact with any moving part of the hoist," said State Coroner Kamala.

She ruled Madam Zarimah's death to be an "industrial misadventure".

The 57-year-old accountant was working for catering company Thyme Food and Services at the FoodXchange @ Admiralty when the incident occurred on June 25 last year.

Madam Zarimah had accompanied a colleague, Ms Chan Sook Chun, to the hoist system - also referred to as a "cargo lift" - at their Admiralty Street workplace to remove from it several items including a warmer and a thermal box.

 

After the women removed the items, they found that the cargo lift was stuck. Ms Chan then stomped on the lift in a bid to get it to move. However, it did not. Both women were still in the lift when it abruptly dropped.

State Coroner Kamala said that Madam Zarimah was killed after she fell and her head got caught between the frame of the cage and the lift landing.

Ms Chan immediately shouted for help and a deliveryman who was nearby helped to call the police. Madam Zarimah, who was a cancer survivor and a mother of four, was pronounced dead at 4.40pm that day.

Account director of Thyme Food and Services Hee Kok Hwa had said that the hoist was already present when he leased the premises and it was intended only for cargo use.

Last Friday, State Coroner Kamala said that the company did not establish any safe work procedures for the operation of the hoist system.

The firm also did not provide formal training on its use. However, employees had been briefed not to use it to travel between the two floors.

State Coroner Kamala said: "Following this incident, MOM (the Ministry of Manpower) has issued an industry-wide advisory to alert to the hazards of an uncertified hoist system and the lack of appropriate maintenance. The need for specific risk assessment was also highlighted."

Thyme Food and Services has since removed the cargo lift with the hoist system and sealed up the shaft. It has also relocated its storage facilities to the ground level.