After investigations, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) slapped fines on three companies - namely, Cummins Asia Pacific, Woodlands Transport Service, and Sterling Engineering - for failure to take adequate safety measures under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) in three separate fatal workplace accidents.

In statements released last week, MOM fined Cummins Asia Pacific and Woodlands Transport Service $80,000 and $130,000 respectively for failure to take adequate safety measures under the WSHA that led to the death of a prime mover driver in each company.

While Sterling Engineering was convicted after a 18-day trial and fined $280,000 under the WSHA for a fatal accident that occurred on 2 September 2014.

Case details: Cummins Asia Pacific fined S$80,000

On 25 March 2015, Yu Hairui, an employee of Cummins Asia Pacific, was driving his prime mover with a loaded 40ft container on its trailer, up the ramp between levels 4 and 5 of CWT Logistics Hub 3.

While manoeuvring a U-turn on the ramp, the 40ft container dislodged from the trailer and toppled onto the cabin of the prime mover, crushing Yu who died from injuries sustained in the accident on the same day.

Investigations by MOM revealed that at the material period, the driveway at level 4 of the premises was congested and prime mover drivers faced difficulties manoeuvring their the prime movers and trailers; and, at least one of the four twist locks fastening the container to the trailer on Yu’s prime mover was unlocked.

As a result, Cummins Asia Pacific was charged under Section 11(b) for failure to ensure that the premise allows prime movers to manoeuvre safely and the proper implementation of a Workplace Traffic Management Plan.

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Case details: Woodlands Transport Service fined S$130,000

On 9 October 2015, Yeoh Lim Koon, an employee of Woodlands Transport Service, parked his prime mover with a 24 ton trailer load, at the designated parking area at Telok Blangah St 31, Singapore and dismounted from his vehicle.

While trying to disconnect the air hoses that were connected to the prime mover and its trailer, the prime mover began to roll forward. In an attempt to open the cabin door, Yeoh lost his grip, falling into a perimeter drain when the tail-end of the trailer caught him and dragged him out of the drain.

After mounting the kerb of the public road outside the worksite, the prime mover halted. Unfortunately, Yeoh who was found underneath the rear of the trailer died from his injuries on the same day.

Investigations by MOM revealed three areas of safety negligence including:

  • A loose bracket used to stabilised the air tanks in the prime mover which caused a cut in one of the air tank due to the air tank hitting a metal plate during bumpy rides.
  • The handbrake of the prime mover was not very effective, possibly due to compressed air leaking from the air tank, which Yeoh had raised on numerous occasions to Woodlands Transport Service.
  • The prime mover was parked at a gradient while the trailer was holding a heavy load.
Consequently, Woodlands Transport Service was charged under Section 12(1) for failure to take corrective actions in repairing a fault on the prime mover despite it being raised by the deceased driver on numerous occasions and allowing the Yeoh to continue with deliveries on the vehicle.

While it was revealed that the company did not agree on the price of the replacement parts and decided to source for the parts on their own, the fault on the prime mover was left unrepaired when the company failed to follow up on the matter.

Commenting on the incidents related to Cummins Asia Pacific and Woodlands Transport Service, Chan Yew Kwong, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said: "These accidents could have been prevented if companies do not compromise the safety of their workers. The company has to take full responsibility for risks they put workers in when they knowingly disregard the need to maintain their vehicles in safe operating condition. There is no business cost that can account for a life lost and MOM will make sure companies understand this fully."

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Case details: Sterling Engineering fined S$280,000

Sterling Engineering was contracted for the supply, delivery and installation of a double-leaf manually operated steel sliding gate at the worksite at Bartley Road.

The installation was going well up until 2 September 2014, when five of its employees were tasked to check the sliding motion of the gate leaves due to the gate not opening or closing smoothly. While workers were pulling the steel sliding gate, it toppled and fatally pinned one worker to the ground.

MOM’s occupational safety and health division’s (OSHD) investigations revealed that each gate leaf measured approximated 4.68m wide and 3.1m high, and weigh approximately 1,500kg.

Further investigations by MOM revealed various failures by Sterling Engineering including:

  • Failure to conduct a thorough risk assessment. - The risks and hazards of moving the gate, and the risk that the gate may over-travel or topple, were not identified and addressed in the risk assessment.
  • Failure to ensure safety measures/features were installed or followed in respect of the work process of installing the gate.
    • Temporary stoppers or other effective measures to prevent over-travelling and consequently toppling of the gate were not installed.
    • Work had commenced without the approval of a permit-to-work
    • Warnings signs to warn others not to move the incomplete gate were not put up.
  • Failure to ensure that the workers had adequate information and supervision as was necessary for them to perform their work.
    • Adequate safe work instructions were not provided in the method statement or safe work processes
    • The risk assessment briefing was conducted in an ineffective manner. The risk and hazards posed by the gate to the workers were not specifically communicated prior to the commencement of the installation works.
    • Adequate supervision was not provided on site.
After a 18-day trail for the offence, Sterling Engineering was charged for failing to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees for the safe installation of the steel sliding gate and fined $280,000 under the WSHA.

Commenting on this case, Chan said: "This is yet another incident where an employer failed to ensure safety and caused the unnecessary loss of a life. In this case, the weight and size of the gate leaf alone should have alerted the employer to the safety risks that its workers were being exposed to when working on the gate leaf. A heavy fine was sought for this case to remind employers that they bear full responsibility for the safety of their workers throughout the work process."

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