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The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday fined Yong Xing Construction and its project manager, Zhong Jia Xiang, S$150,000 and S$40,000 respectively under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act.
According to a media statement, the company and its project manager failed to take adequate safety measures under the WSH Act that led to the death of a worker, and the injury of another.
The construction company was charged under Section 12(1) for its failure to ensure that its safety assessments and work processes addressed the risks and hazards posed by a concrete slab that was unsupported underneath a box drain during manual excavation works.
While Zhong Jia Xiang was charged under Section 48(1), in his role as overall in-charge of the project, for approving the inadequate assessments and safety measures despite knowing that the concrete slab may fall onto the workers.
On 14 September 2015, Yong Xing Construction started excavating soil manually underneath a box drain to prepare for a subsequent construction of a pipe-block in the same location.
Despite knowing that the concrete on the underside of the box drain may collapse as it was only supported by the soil it sat on, Zhong Jia Xiang, project manager of Yong Xing Construction, had assumed that the concrete would fall only in small pieces while the ground was being excavated.
Consequently, Zhong instructed six employees to excavate soil manually underneath the box drain with only personal protective equipment to protect them.
On 19 September 2015, six employees of Yong Xing Construction were manually excavating soil underneath an existing box drain at a construction site at Sunview Way when a slab of concrete (of about 200mm thick) collapsed from the underside of the box drain into the work area.
Unfortunately, two employees, Dewan Md Ratul and Sheikh Mohammed Sapan, were struck by the fallen concrete and were conveyed to hospital. Md Ratul succumbed to his injuries on the same day.
MOM’s investigations revealed that Yong Xing Construction and its project manager did not adequately take into account the risks posed by the concrete slab.
The company provided an inadequate risk assessment, and thus did not implement corresponding safety control measures. It’s work processes either did not take into account the concrete slab or was irrelevant to manual excavation work. Additionally, it failed to provide adequate safety control measures in its excavation permit to work.
While Zhong Jia Xiang, as project manager and overall in-charge of the workplace, failed to take steps to identify and adequately address the hazards and risks posed by the falling concrete slab in the various safety assessments. Instead, he allowed the manual excavation work to commence with inadequate safety measures in place to protect the workers.
Chan Yew Kwong, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said: “Those sentenced today failed the six workers who were sent into an unsafe environment to carry out excavation works.
“The company and its project manager didn’t carry out their legal duties, leading to the accident which killed one worker and injuring another. The project manager was aware of the presence of the lean concrete/ hard-core (underneath the box drain) and that the lean concrete/hard-core could drop during the excavation works.
“Despite this, he did not carry out a thorough risk assessment and put in place appropriate control measures to address the risk before sending the workers into the excavation works. Such an intervention would have avoided the tragic outcome of this entirely preventable accident.”
Chan added that the MOM will not hesitate to prosecute companies and project managers that failed to ensure safety.
Photo / 123RF