A site supervisor for ZAP Piling, Tay Tong Chuan, was sentenced to a total of 16 weeks’ imprisonment for offences related to a fatal workplace accident on 9 June 2016 at a machinery storage yard located at 6 Kranji Link, involving, Arumugam Elango (the Deceased).
According to a media release by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Tay was sentenced to eight weeks’ imprisonment under each offence:
- The Penal Code for intentionally obstructing the course of justice by asking a worker to take the blame for the fatal incident.
- The Workplace Safety and Health Act for instructing his worker to carry out lifting operations involving a crawler crane without a permit-to-work and a lifting plan.
The company was earlier convicted on 3 May 2018 for an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for the same fatal accident and was fined $290,000.
Sebastian Tan, MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said: “Tay, as the site supervisor, not only failed to ensure a safe working environment for his workers during the lifting operation but took advantage of his supervisory position to attempt to pervert the course of justice. MOM takes a very serious view on this and will press for custodial sentences against those who put their workers at risk and attempt to obstruct the course of justice.”
On 9 June 2016, the Deceased and other workers were tasked to perform a functional test of a bore piling machine at the storage yard.
During the test, on Tay’s instructions, crawler crane operator Cai Guanglin used a crawler crane to shift a boring bucket that was in front of the bore piling machine to another location, next to a stack of bore pile casings.
The lifting operation was done without applying for a permit-to-work and a lifting plan, which is required under the Workplace Safety and Health (Operation of Cranes) Regulations 2011.
Note: A lifting plan would have required Tay to mark the zone of operation for the lift, consider the existing obstructions at the time of the lift and establish an effective means of communication amongst the various workers involved.
At that time, another worker, Mamun, was seated inside the cabin of an excavator with its arm extended. His role on that day was to remove the soil after the test boring was done.
After rigging the bucket with the crane’s chain slings, the Deceased moved to a tight space of about 1.4 metres between the bore piling machine and the stack of casings.
Cai then operated the crane to shift the bucket next to the stacked casings, which were unsecured. In the process, the bucket knocked against the casings, causing some of them to topple and pin the Deceased against the track of the bore piling machine.
Each of the fallen casings weighed about 1.76 tonnes. The Deceased was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple injuries.
Knowing that the accident would be investigated by the relevant authorities, Tay and the company’s plant manager, intended to obstruct the course of justice by shifting the blame for the accident to Mamun.
Note: Tay had neither witnessed the accident nor reasonably believed that Mamun was responsible for the accident.
Hence, Mamun and another worker, Sumon A B M, were called into the store area where Tay coached Mamun to say that the excavator he was in control of had touched the casings, causing the casings to collapse to the ground and hit the Deceased. As a result of the company’s plant manager’s instigation, Sumon, who was afraid of losing his job, also made false statements against Mamun.
However, Mamun refused to take the blame for the accident.
Unknown to Tay and the plant manager, Mamun had covertly recorded this conversation on his mobile phone. When Mamun was informed that he would be charged for doing a negligent act which endangered the safety of others, he then provided the recording to MOM investigators. Mamun did not hand over the recording earlier as he was afraid that his recording would be kept and never presented in court.
According to Mamun, he saw the bucket tilting when it was being placed on the ground by Cai using the crawler crane. The bucket hit the casings which caused some of them to topple to the ground. Mamun denied that the arm of the excavator, which he operated, came into contact with the bucket or the casings.
The charge against Mamun was eventually withdrawn.
Photo / 123RF