SMRT worker jolted by 750-volt electric shock

Commuters at Sembawang MRT station on May 26, 2016.
Commuters at Sembawang MRT station on May 26, 2016.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Contractor treated for burns to hand; SMRT says he went to sector without seeking approval

A rail worker survived a 750-volt electrical shock yesterday in what appeared to be another serious safety lapse at SMRT.

In an incident that came just two months after a pair of SMRT trainees were killed by a train while they did maintenance work on a track, a contractor sustained burns while working on a power-supplying third rail. The incident happened at around 1.50am near the Sembawang station.

Like the two dead trainees, the injured man was in his 20s. He was taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in a Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulance, and was discharged after being treated for electrical burns to his left hand.

SMRT spokesman Patrick Nathan said: "Three SMRT staff, along with two contractors, were on the track by the platform of Sembawang MRT station to conduct maintenance work during engineering hours.

"One of the contractors was using a third-rail gauging bar to measure the height and distance of the third rail from the running rail, to ensure the correct positioning of the third rail, which supplies power to the trains. While carrying this out, the contractor sustained a burn injury to his left hand."

Mr Nathan said "the necessary approval was given to the team to access the track for the maintenance work".

"Our findings show that the contractor proceeded to an adjacent sector instead, for which prior approval had not been sought and where the traction power had not been switched off," he said.

The incident triggered a circuit breaker at the switch room at the Sembawang station.


According to former SMRT employees, there are several layers of protection for workers on the track. Beyond authorising access, workers must be told where they can go. Short circuit devices are also installed, so that in case a third rail is accidentally switched on, workers are not electrocuted by the 750 volts of direct current.

The Land Transport Authority said it would investigate.

On March 22, two SMRT workers were killed by a train travelling at 60kmh near the Pasir Ris station. They were part of a team sent to check a potential equipment flaw.

Last month, SMRT admitted that safety lapses led to the incident.

In a blog post yesterday, National Transport Workers' Union executive secretary Melvin Yong cited the incident and stressed the importance of workplace safety.

"While service excellence is important, workplace safety should never be compromised," he wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2016, with the headline 'SMRT worker jolted by 750-volt electric shock'. Print Edition | Subscribe