SMRT Trains fined $400k for workplace safety lapse which resulted in two deaths

SCDF paramedics working at the site of the accident, where two SMRT maintenance staff were killed by a train, on March 22, 2016. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

SINGAPORE - In what has been described as SMRT's worst fatal rail incident to date, SMRT Trains was fined $400,000 on Tuesday (Feb 28) for failing to take practicable steps to ensure the safety and health of its employees at a workplace.

The contravention under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) resulted in the deaths of two young trainees at the Mass Rapid Transit train track between Tampines and Pasir Ris stations on March 22 last year (2016).

Mr Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Mr Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were part of a joint 15-member inspection team deployed to inspect a fault detected at a point machine on the train track when a train barrelled into them near Pasir Ris station.

The duo who had just joined the company in January had reported to Tanah Merah station for their on-the-job attachment for the day.

The company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that its employees complied with the approved operating procedures when accessing the train track. It also failed to ensure that the procedures actually practised by its employees to access the train track passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

The court heard that track access during traffic hours is an inherently dangerous and high-risk activity as it requires employees to be physically present on the train tracks when passenger train services are in operation.

The potential for harm to employees is high because serious or fatal accidents can easily occur unless proper care is taken to ensure that passenger trains are not permitted to approach the location where employees are working on the tracks.

A high degree of coordination between employees in different work units and departments of SMRT Trains is necessary to ensure that track access works are carried out safely.

At the time of the accident, the company had in place a set of documented operating procedures to ensure the safety of employees who access the tracks during traffic hours where there is limited clearance such as in this case.

Investigations showed that the parties involved in track access that day did not comply with the operating procedure. In fact, the procedure had not been complied with for many years.

Investigations further revealed that since as early as 2002, the Operations Control Centre (OCC) had been approving requests for track access which were not in compliance with the operating procedure. These deviations were not documented nor authorised by the company.

SMRT failed to ensure that the various practices used by its employees to access train tracks during traffic hours passed safety audits, were documented and were disseminated. This resulted in an unsafe workplace for its employees.

Since the fatal accident, the company required strict compliance with its written operating procedures on track access. It also took steps to require the OCC to exercise greater control over the scheduled train movements at the worksite.

The company, which was given until Monday to pay the fine, could have been fined up to $500,000 for contravening WSHA.

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