Renovation firm owner who fell through shophouse's false ceiling among 20 who died at work this year

The renovation firm owner was surveying the second floor of the shop house when he fell through the false ceiling board. PHOTO: WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH COUNCIL

SINGAPORE - The sole proprietor of a renovation company died on May 2 after he fell through a false ceiling board at a shophouse in Geylang. 

On April 22, a 32-year-old Indian national was run over by a wheel loader while walking towards a rest area at a worksite in Tanah Merah Coast Road. He died in hospital on last Thursday (May 5).

These were two of the latest work-related fatalities that took place this year.

New details of the deaths were shared by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Tuesday after an industry alert for the two accidents was sent out by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council the day before.

The two deaths took the total number of work-related fatalities so far this year to 20 - the highest number of fatalities for the same period since 2016.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post on Monday that the number of fatalities was unacceptable and had to be put right.

MOM said the fatal accident involving the renovation company owner took place at 511 Geylang Road at about 6.45pm.

The Singaporean, 66, who was the sole proprietor of H&T Renovation and Construction, was surveying the second floor of the shop house.

The wooden flooring had been removed, exposing the floor beams and the false ceiling board for the first floor.

MOM said the man fell between the exposed floor beams, through the false ceiling board, and landed about 4m below.

He was unconscious when taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, where he died the same night.

No foul play is suspected and investigations are ongoing, the police said.

MOM said that as a general safety measure, fall prevention measures should be put in place before any flooring is removed.

This was not implemented at the time of the accident.

Raising similarities between this case and another workplace death last month involving an engineer who fell through a false ceiling at CapitaSpring building in Market Street, the WSH Council said in its alert that fragile surfaces such as false ceilings should also be identified and clearly marked.

Floor removal and surveying works should ideally be done in stages so that the exposure to fragile surfaces can be minimised.

Other measures that could be adopted include implementing a fall prevention plan, which would involve a restraint system or lifeline.

The other fatal accident took place on April 22 at about 10am at Tanah Merah Staging Ground.

This is a Housing Board site where construction companies can dispose of excavated materials.

MOM said the 32-year-old Indian national was walking towards a rest area at the site, which is operated and occupied by Hyundai Engineering and Construction, when he was run over by a wheel loader.

The worker, employed by Swift Team Engineering and Construction Services, was taken to Changi General Hospital, where he underwent several operations but later died last Thursday.

In its alert, the WSH Council again noted similarities between this accident and another that took place in June last year, also involving a wheel loader.

To prevent similar accidents, the council said companies should implement a traffic management plan, including the provision of barricaded pedestrian walkways, blind spot mirrors, road humps and traffic signs.

Rest areas should also be located in spaces where there is minimal vehicular movement.

Technology, such as blind spot cameras and collision detectors, should be used where possible, the council added.

MOM is investigating the workplace death, the 10th recorded in April alone.

The spate of fatalities prompted MOM, the WSH Council, National Trades Union Congress and industry associations to call for a national safety time-out over a two-week period from Monday, the fourth national safety time-out in two years.

PM Lee said in his Facebook post: "Safety standards and practices seem to have slipped. Accident rates have gone up, and we have lost ground."

He added: "I call on everyone involved - employers, supervisors, and workers - to take safety at the workplace seriously. Lives are at stake."

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