SMRT maintenance works set to resume after safety timeout

A 59-year-old SMRT veteran's right foot was crushed by a maintenance machine on Dec 12, 2018, during tamping works. The incident disrupted service on the East-West Line for about an hour.
A 59-year-old SMRT veteran's right foot was crushed by a maintenance machine on Dec 12, 2018, during tamping works. The incident disrupted service on the East-West Line for about an hour.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Maintenance work on the North-South and East-West MRT lines was expected to resume last night after being put on hold since last Wednesday.

Rail operator SMRT had called a "safety timeout" after an accident last Wednesday morning that led to a worker having his foot amputated. The Straits Times understands that the work stoppage had remained in place since.

Insiders said the timeout meant all maintenance work was put on hold "to allow management to reassess safety and plug lapses".

A 59-year-old SMRT veteran's right foot was crushed by a maintenance machine on Wednesday morning during tamping works. The incident disrupted service on the East-West Line for about an hour.

Asked about the accident during an event at Sengkang Depot yesterday, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said preliminary investigations suggest the incident was "an isolated industrial accident case and not so much a systemic problem as happened in the previous incident".

He was referring to the fatal accident in 2016, where two trainee technicians were killed near Pasir Ris station. Investigations into that case revealed that several safety protocols were breached. The Ministry of Manpower also subsequently revealed that SMRT has had similar breaches - dating back to as early as 2002.

Even as investigations into the accident continue, it has emerged that there are clear guidelines designed to prevent such incidents from happening in the first place.

 
 

The Straits Times understands that risks and ways to mitigate them are spelt out in a health, safety and environment risk assessment statement for all potentially hazardous works. These include those involved in rail tamping work - where heavy automated machinery is used to push displaced gravel (ballast) back under train tracks.

For instance, hazards such as train movement, machine movements and entanglement are highlighted. Control measures to mitigate or avoid these hazards, as well as persons in charge of these control measures, are also cited clearly.

It remains unclear how the accident occurred despite all these measures. SMRT has declined to shed more light on the latest accident, maintaining that investigations are ongoing. Asked if the accident was caused by a breach in safety protocol, the company did not respond.

• Additional reporting by Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'SMRT maintenance works set to resume after safety timeout'. Print Edition | Subscribe