PIE work site collapse: OKP Holdings' shares hit after accident at unit's worksite

Subsidiary was found guilty of safety breach in a 2015 worksite accident just three days before viaduct collapse

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The Land Transport Authority said that work has resumed at all its road and rail construction sites after safety checks. The checks came after a new viaduct being built collapsed on Friday morning, killing one worker and injuring 10.
Yesterday's accident was the latest involving OKP Contractors, which was found guilty of a 2015 safety breach just three days before the structure collapsed.
Yesterday's accident was the latest involving OKP Contractors, which was found guilty of a 2015 safety breach just three days before the structure collapsed. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Or Kim Peow (OKP) Holdings' shares had soared some 45 per cent this year before losing 8 per cent yesterday to 39.5 cents before trading was halted less than six hours after the collapse of a structure at its subsidiary's Upper Changi Road East viaduct project site yesterday morning.

Brokerage KGI Securities last month had called the counter a "buy" given that OKP was in a good position to bid for contracts under the North-South Corridor project as it is a Building and Construction Authority-registered Grade 1 civil engineering contractor. Contractors with such a grading are not limited to project cost when bidding for public-sector civil engineering projects.

Yesterday's accident was the latest involving the firm's wholly owned subsidiary, OKP Contractors, which was found guilty of a 2015 safety breach, just three days before the structure collapsed.

In that case, one worker had died, while three others were injured after they fell more than 6m from a dislodged platform.

The firm failed to ensure the working platform erected by the company was safe for use. Mr Chan Yew Kwong, Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said of the firm then: "This is a clear case of a company that does not take workplace safety seriously.

"MOM will not hesitate to take punitive actions on companies and individuals who knowingly put workers at risk. There is no excuse for companies who fail to take ownership of workplace safety."

Before that incident, MOM had also hit the firm with 25 demerit points and blacklisted it from January to April this year, when it was barred from employing foreign workers. In its statement, OKP's group managing director, Mr Or Toh Wat, said it "deeply regrets" the accident.

The company had won the $94.6 million tender in November 2015 to construct a one-way, two-lane viaduct from the Tampines Expressway to the Pan-Island Expressway and Upper Changi Road East. Together with project consultants CPG Consultants, OKP was expected to complete the viaduct and the surrounding road works in early 2020.

As the client, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) maintains a site office at the worksite. Its officers were present when the accident happened.

According to LTA's website, OKP and CPG beat three other groups which had tendered bids ranging from $129.7 million to $193.7 million, for the project, two months after the fatal incident in 2015.

In 2015, LTA also awarded OKP two contracts worth $143.8 million to build more than 200km of new sheltered walkways around key public transport nodes by 2018.

OKP has an existing net construction order book of $306.1 million, excluding two new contracts worth $20.5 million awarded last month.

Founded by the Or family 50 years ago, OKP's board of directors include former minister of state for national development, communications and information technology John Chen Seow Phun, senior director of corporate law firm Niru & Co Nirumalan V. Kanapathi Pillai, and former president of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Singapore Tan Boen Eng.

Said Mr Or: "The (OKP board of directors) is deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident and wishes to express the company's heartfelt sympathies to the families of the deceased and others injured in the incident. Meanwhile, the group will ensure that the needs of the affected workers are fully taken care of."

The firm did not comment on its recent track record when asked.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has instructed the project's qualified person (QP), from CPG, to inspect the remaining supporting structures at the viaduct. A QP is someone registered as either an architect or an engineer with the Board of Architects or Professional Engineers Board respectively. CPG declined to elaborate on the incident, but said it is "working closely with the relevant authorities to carry out detailed investigations".

BCA has also revoked the permit for the construction works, and "will be investigating the cause of the incident".

"As a safety precaution, the adjacent girders will be propped and supported," it said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we noted that the rest of the constructed viaducts are not above any public roads and will not pose a risk to the public."

As regulators of building and workplace safety, inspectors from BCA and MOM conduct spot checks from time to time.

Said an MOM spokesman: "MOM has issued a full stop-work order and is currently investigating the situation. MOM is also working with the Migrant Workers' Centre and the employer to render assistance to the workers and their families."

LTA lifted a "safety timeout" at all road and rail construction sites under the authority at 1pm yesterday following the accident.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2017, with the headline PIE work site collapse: OKP Holdings' shares hit after accident at unit's worksite. Subscribe