Hiap Seng Lorry Enterprises owner fined record amount for fatal workplace incident

Hiap Seng Lorry Enterprises owner fined record amount for fatal workplace incident

Fatal incident at Sunway worksite
Venugopal Sarath Kumar died while unloading a bundle of wire mesh at a Sunway Concrete Products worksite. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)

SINGAPORE: The sole proprietor of Hiap Seng Lorry Enterprises (Hiap Seng) has been fined a record amount under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act for his role in a fatal workplace incident.

Ong Chin Chong was fined S$140,000 on Sep 2 after one of his employees died while unloading a bundle of wire mesh from a Hiap Seng lorry, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release on Friday (Sep 13).

Venugopal Sarath Kumar died while unloading a bundle of wire mesh at a Sunway Concrete Products (Sunway) worksite on Apr 26, 2016.

He had been helping to unload the bundle along with Ong and another worker, Dhatchinamoorthy Karthik, using the vehicle's hydraulic crane arm.

Ong operated the lorry crane and supervised the lifting operation, while the workers were tasked to rig and align the bundle of wire mesh during lifting.

The bundle, which weighed about 1.57 tonnes, slanted while in transit, prompting the two workers to align it with their bare hands. 

However it suddenly became dislodged from the lifting chain and struck Venugopal.

He was pronounced dead at the scene by attending paramedics.

LARGEST FINE IMPOSED ON INDIVIDUAL UNDER WSH ACT

In its press release, MOM listed a number of failings by Ong to ensure the safety of his workers.

Investigations revealed that Ong had failed to ensure the lifting chain was adequate and in good condition before telling his workers to use it.

Although the lifting chain had been used for similar operations earlier in the day, it was later found that a steel wire used to secure the chain had become dislodged during the lifting operation at Sunway.

Ong also did not make sure the two men were trained to perform lifting operations and both of them, who were employed as technicians, had not attended relevant courses or been briefed on proper methods, said MOM.

Hiap Seng lorry at Sunway worksite
The Hiap Seng lorry loader with hydraulic crane arm. (Photo: Ministry of Manpower)

He also did not appoint required trained personnel (a lifting supervisor, rigger and signalman) for the operation, and failed to conduct a specific risk assessment to identify potential hazards and reduce risks to workers.

As such he was fined S$140,000 over the incident - the largest imposed on an individual under the WSH Act, according to MOM.

Unipac Transport Service, which contracted Ong to deliver the materials to Sunway, was fined S$60,000 for failing to ensure its contractor had conducted an adequate risk assessment and developed appropriate control measures.

Sunway, the occupier of the worksite at 4 Tampines Industrial Street 62, was fined S$160,000 for failing to ensure that the lifting works carried by external parties at its premises had followed a set of procedures, and that the lifting chain used by Hiap Seng was certified by an authorised examiner.

"As the employer, Ong disregarded his workers’ safety and essentially left them to their own devices to manage the lifting activities," said MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate Sebastian Tan. 

"He failed to establish basic requirements such as a lifting plan and did not ensure that his workers were trained to conduct lifting operations.

"Tragic accidents such as this can be averted if we all play our part in managing the hazards associated with high risk operations such as lifting.”

Members of Parliament have called for better treatment of injured migrant workers, as Parliament passed the amended Work Injury Compensation Act on Sep 3.

READ: MPs call for better treatment of injured migrant workers as amended work injury law passed

Forty-one people died in 2018 after suffering injuries in the workplace.

The overall number of workplace injuries rose from 12,498 cases in 2017 to 12,810 cases in 2018, an increase of about 2.5 per cent.

Earlier this year, a construction safety school was opened to train workers and boost safety standards in the industry.

Source: CNA/nc(rw)

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