According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Jurong Shipyard (JSPL) was fined $230,000 on Thursday (4 January) under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (Chapter 354A); for failure to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that a cherry picker owned by JSPL was maintained in a safe condition. This failure resulted in the death of two workers in 2011.

On 29 October that year, the two workers were fatally injured when they fell about 30 metres to the bottom of a dry dock when the boom of the cherry picker they were working on suddenly buckled and collapsed onto the floor of the dock.

JSPL was engaged to perform repair works on a vessel which was docked in a dry dock within its shipyard at 29 Tanjong Kling Road. JSPL had engaged Shipblast Marine, the employer of the two deceased workers, to carry out grit blasting work.

The two deceased workers used the said cherry picker to carry out their work at the front of the vessel. Both were in the cherry picker’s basket when the boom of the cherry picker buckled and collapsed, causing the basket to fall about 30 metres down to the dry dock.

Through MOM’s investigation findings, the cherry picker had undergone an 18-month overhaul maintenance from 23 April 2011 to 18 July 2011. Corrosion was found on all the four boom sections and basket. The problems had then been rectified by blasting and painting over the affected areas.

However, the second boom section appeared to have sustained the most significant material wastage (wear) with the remaining boom plate thickness measured to be as low as 2.86mm (the original thickness of the boom plate was reported to be 6.00mm).

According to the manufacturer’s guidelines, the second boom had to be replaced under such circumstances. However, JSPL did not refer to the manufacturer’s inspection guidelines prior to the incident. Instead, it erroneously referred to the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) rules for survey after construction, which is meant for conventional vessels and not for lifting equipment. Based on the ABS standard, JSPL did not replace the second boom section.

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In the release, MOM reported that JSPL had also failed to establish and conduct comprehensive checks on all the sections of the boom of the cherry picker even after the 18 month overhaul maintenance.

“As part of the daily and weekly checks for corrosion and cracks, the boom had to be extended fully,” the release stated.

However, for this particular model of cherry pickers, visual checks on the boom were conducted only up to 19.8m of boom extension (the maximum allowable length for its boom while in the horizontal position due to its limit switches), instead of its full extension of 35m. Furthermore, defects within the unextended boom sections that led to the fatal accident were not detected during these checks.

In conclusion, Chan Yew Kwong, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said: “JSPL failed to take the necessary precautions to ensure the safe use of its equipment. It should have referred to the manufacturer’s inspection guidelines to check for corrosion and cracks and conduct thorough equipment checks to ensure the safety of its workers.”

Two workers lost their lives as a result of poor equipment maintenance. The MOM will prosecute owners of equipment who fail to provide for its safe use, putting workers’ lives at risk,” he added.

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