Site superintendent told workers to build improvised scaffold that collapsed, injuring 9

SINGAPORE - As the site superintendent, he had a responsibility to ensure the safety of himself and that of others.

Instead, Jayaraman Sankaran, 53, instructed workers to erect a scaffold using an improvised method to save time.

The unsafe scaffold later collapsed, injuring a total of nine workers, including one who suffered a fractured wrist and another who suffered four broken teeth.

On Tuesday, Jayaraman, a Malaysian who was employed by Multiheight Scaffolding, was jailed for six months after he was convicted on one count of a negligent act under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

He had claimed trial, but was eventually found guilty and convicted in November 2022.

On or about Jan 27, 2017, at the Horizon Singapore Terminals worksite at 11 Meranti Crescent, Jayaraman instructed workers from Multiheight to erect the scaffold using an improvised method of joining individually constructed scaffold towers without effective control measures to ensure its stability.

The scaffold, which had been built to a height of 9m, was erected around a structure identified as Tank 208 when it collapsed.

During the trial, Jayaraman’s defence was that he was not supervising the works; the incident was caused by other factors or parties; and that he never instructed the workers to erect the scaffold using the improvised method.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutors Nur Ishameena and Kimberly Boo rebutted the claims, highlighting multiple inconsistencies between his court testimony and statement he had given to MOM during investigations.

In the statement to MOM, Jayaraman said that when he entered the tank on the morning of Jan 27, the scaffold towers were erected to a height of four lifts.

But in his court testimony, he said that the scaffold had been built to only the height of one lift at the time and they were about to start building a “second one”.

In his statement, Jayaraman had also stated he was responsible for dictating the improvised manner by joining scaffold towers using tubular pipes.

But in court, he denied this, saying he had not given such an instruction.

Multiple witnesses had testified otherwise, saying that Jayaraman had indeed given the instructions, and had also supervised the operation.

Jayaraman later admitted in court that he had not only given the instructions, but had also said how the structure was to be built.

The prosecution said that it was fortuitous no one died from his negligence, and that a deterrent message must be made. It urged the court for a sentence of eight to 10 months’ jail.

Jayaraman has been offered bail for $10,000, and is expected to begin serving his sentence on April 4. The court rejected his request to leave jurisdiction.

For performing a negligent act that endangered the safety of others, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $30,000.

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