As announced by Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Sin Eng Cleaning Services has been fined S$190,000 under section 12(1) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to take adequate safety measures to ensure the safety of an employee who was performing tree cutting work.

Case summary

In early August 2015, Sin Eng was engaged to cut six trees over a period of few weeks at a vacant state land behind 62 Kheam Hock Road.

On 27 August 2015 at 2pm, Indian national Chinniah Ganeshan (the deceased) was using a chainsaw to cut a section of the third tree assigned to him and two other workers, when the sawn section fell and struck him. The deceased fell from the tree but remained suspended in mid-air by his harness and lanyard, about 23 metres above ground.

He was brought to ground level an hour later by a worker from another landscaping contractor who was nearby. However, he succumbed to his chest and neck injuries on site at around 4.20pm.

MOM’s findings

The Ministry's investigations revealed that Sin Eng originally planned for the deceased to use a lorry crane mounted with a bucket to perform the assigned task. As there was a structure blocking the crane’s access, Sin Eng instructed the deceased to use the manual tree access (MTA) method instead.

Sin Eng failed to conduct an adequate risk assessment and establish safe work procedures for tree removal and cutting. Risks relating to the use of MTA method, such as the failure of tree access equipment and breakage of tree branches, were not identified nor mitigated. The workers were left to decide how to complete their task on their own.

In addition, Sin Eng failed to develop procedures for dealing with emergencies that might arise during tree cutting activities, such as when a worker is suspended at height when using the MTA method. The deceased was the only certified tree climber in Sin Eng. When the incident happened, there was no other competent tree climber who could come to his help.

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Sebastian Tan, MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said, "The employer has severely compromised the safety of its workers by failing to identify and address the risks associated with the cutting of trees. This process of risk management was especially critical given that there was a change in work method.

"The accident could have been prevented if the employer had reviewed their risk assessment, implemented control measures for the new work method and communicated these measures to its workers. MOM will ensure that errant companies take full responsibility for endangering workers’ lives."

Photo / 123RF