Construction firm director dies in fall through hole in floor of 2-storey house near Dunearn Road

The man died after he fell through an opening in the floor and landed on a staircase 4.7m below at a house at 38 University Walk. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A construction firm director died last week after he fell through an opening in the floor of a semi-detached house that was undergoing addition and alteration works.

The 53-year-old Singapore permanent resident was overseeing construction work at the two-storey house located at 38 University Walk, which is in a private estate near Dunearn Road, when he fell through the opening and landed on a staircase 4.7m below.

The fatal accident on Feb 10 was the fourth work-related death that took place over the first 10 days of the month, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told The Straits Times in a statement on Thursday (Feb 18). MOM is investigating all four incidents.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force was alerted to the Feb 10 incident at 11.40am and the company director was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where ST understands he was pronounced dead.

He is believed to be Mr Koh Kok Heng, one of two people listed as directors at JMS Construction.

The firm is the occupier of the University Walk site and has been ordered to stop all works.

When ST contacted the firm on Thursday (Feb 18), a woman who picked up the phone declined to comment.

A notice outside the semi-detached house said the property also had a basement and an attic. Construction work at the site was expected to be completed in June.

MOM said it will continue to intensify its enforcement efforts in light of the latest string of workplace deaths, with a greater focus on the risk of working at heights.

This is the second time in about six months that a worker died after falling through an opening in the floor at a construction site.

In August last year, a Bangladeshi worker was removing the wooden planks covering an opening on the second floor of a building at 605 MacPherson Road when he stepped through the opening and fell.

On Wednesday, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council reminded those in the industry, in a bulletin, to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment before allowing work to proceed. Floor openings must be identified, securely covered or have guard rails installed. Warning signs must also be put up to alert workers of a fall hazard.

The four deaths this month comes after a previous spate of five fatalities that occurred over two weeks late last year. Between Nov 23 and Dec 2, five workers died in separate incidents, of which two were in construction. A sixth fatality was reported on Dec 15 at a Land Transport Authority construction site beside the Changi MRT depot.

The deaths had sparked concern from the labour movement, with National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Melvin Yong wondering at the time if fatigue from Covid-19 measures had led to lapses, and if companies were compromising on safety in a rush to complete work delayed by the pandemic.

The WSH Council and the Singapore Contractors Association called for an industry-wide safety time-out in response to the deaths, while the MOM conducted 400 inspections between Dec 10 and Feb 15 targeting high-risk sectors such as construction, manufacturing and marine. The inspections uncovered about 450 contraventions in just over a month and four stop-work orders were issued.

A company director died after he fell through an opening in the floor and landed on a staircase 4.7m below at a house at 38 University Walk. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

While MOM has yet to release the full tally of workplace fatalities reported last year, preliminary figures indicate there were at least 29 such deaths in 2020.

In 2019, there were 39 workplace deaths and the workplace fatality rate fell to 1.1 for every 100,000 workers, the lowest since 2004 when such records were first compiled.

Other workplace deaths in February

There were three other fatal workplace accidents that took place between Feb 1 and Feb 10, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told The Straits Times on Thursday.

The first involved a 31-year-old Indian national, who was found unconscious and slouched against the control panel of a boom lift at a construction site in Jurong West Street 52.

The worker was taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, where he died of his injuries. No details were given of those.

His employer was Li Fu Zhan Engineering, while the occupier of the site was Zheng Keng Engineering and Construction. The latter has been ordered to stop all works related to scaffolds, working at heights and the use of mobile elevated work platforms on the premises.

The second death took place on Feb 2 at 37 Jurong Port Road.

A Singaporean prime mover driver, 67, was standing on some steel bars on his trailer bed and was assisting a forklift operator to adjust a steel bundle when he fell from the trailer. He was taken to National University Hospital where he died.

The occupier of the site, Buana Shipping and Marine, and the man's employer, Yong Tat Logistics, have both been ordered to stop all works on the premises.

The third death was a fatal traffic accident involving a delivery rider on Feb 8. The Singaporean man, 30, was employed by Declarators, a customs permit declaration agency that also provides local courier services. He was riding his motorcycle on the Ayer Rajah Expressway when he collided into the rear of a truck owned by JD Cargo Express.

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