The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of Singapore has reported that Teo Wee Kiat, director of control operations for SMRT Trains (SMRT) has been fined S$55,000 on 29 September for a fatal train accident that happened on 22 March 2016.
On that day, two SMRT trainee employees, who were part of a 15-member team checking on a fault relating to switching equipment on the MRT tracks, were hit by a train near Pasir Ris MRT station. Following that on 28 February 2017, SMRT pleaded guilty and was convicted under the WSH Act for failing to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of its employees who had to access the train tracks during traffic hours – SMRT was fined $400,000.
SMRT’s Operations Control Centre (OCC), which comes under Teo’s charge, manages and grants final approval to all requests for track access, including the management of access to train tracks during traffic hours. According to the release, Teo was charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to exercise due diligence as the director of control operations to:
- Ensure SMRT’s employees complied with approved safety operating procedures when accessing train tracks during traffic hours; and
- Ensure that the deviation in procedures practised by SMRT’s employees to access the train tracks was approved by the management of SMRT and passed safety audits to ensure safety and health of employees using these procedures.
In the release, it stated that track access during traffic hours is an inherently dangerous and high-risk activity as it requires employees to be physically present on the train tracks when passenger train services are in operation. Hence, SMRT had approved and issued a set of documented operating procedures known as “Unit 3C OP” to govern such activities.
However, MOM investigations revealed that the SMRT employees have not been complying with “Unit 3C OP” from as early as 2002, and the frequency of employees utilising such unapproved methods of track access increased from 2007. In fact, OCC has been allowing SMRT employees to deviate from the “Unit 3C OP” when granting permission to access train track during traffic hours. Moreover, Teo was aware that SMRT employees had not been complying with “Unit 3C OP” when accessing limited clearance train tracks during traffic hours. However, he did not flag out such safety issues to SMRT management, so that the management can decide on whether an audit or review should be conducted.
Chan Yew Kwong, director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, commented: “As director of control operations, Teo Wee Kiat has the ultimate responsibility to ensure SMRT employees complied with the mandated operating procedures.”
“Despite knowing that the operating procedures for track access have not been complied with, he did not take any action to ensure compliance or to review the operating procedures. He has failed in his duties, and must be held accountable for his negligence.”
Photo / 123RF