Teo, 41, was found guilty of failing to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of employees undertaking the “dangerous and high-risk” work of inspecting train tracks during operating hours, resulting in the deaths of the two employees.
Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 25, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, were killed by an oncoming train between Pasir Ris and Tampines stations. They were part of a 15-man team sent to check on a track fault about 190m away from Pasir Ris station.
It later emerged that the team had ignored safety procedures. As a result, a series of miscommunications led to the team, headed by assistant engineer Lim Say Heng, entering the track before the Operations Control Centre (OCC) had imposed an order which would have prevented trains from coming close to employees on the tracks.
SMRT Trains was fined a record S$400,000 in February for the safety lapse. A probe also revealed that instances of its non-compliance with safety protocols had been rampant since 2002. Its failures had created an unsafe environment for its employees, Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala said.
Teo was in charge of the OCC, which manages and approves all requests for track access. He knew safety protocols were regularly ignored, but did nothing to remedy the situation, DPP Bala said. “His omission to do so contributed to SMRT’s failure to ensure the procedures practiced by employees on the ground passed safety audits,” he told the court.
The prosecutor urged the court to impose a fine of S$60,000 on Teo, calling the accident “the worst train accident to date”.
Teo’s lawyer Adam Maniam urged the court to impose a fine of S$30,000 to S$40,000, pointing to significant steps Teo had taken of his own accord to “remedy the causes of the accident”.
“All of these steps were taken well before (Teo) was charged," said Mr Maniam. "These are not the steps of someone seeking to belatedly bolster his defence in the face of a criminal charge, but the steps of someone who had the genuine desire to improve workplace safety at SMRT,” he argued.
Some of the measures proposed by Teo have been implemented as standard procedure at SMRT, including stricter procedures governing track access during traffic and non-traffic hours. He also set up a new unit, the Track Access Management Office, dedicated to the planning, coordination and control of track access during non-traffic hours, among other initiatives, Mr Maniam told the court.
District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said given Teo’s high level of culpability he would have "suggested a fine even higher than what the prosecutor has asked for”. However, the judge said he had taken into account mitigating factors in Teo’s favour in imposing a fine of S$55,000.
Teo, who still works for SMRT, will pay his fine in full by next Friday.
Lim, the engineer who led the team onto the tracks, has been charged for causing death by a negligent act. He is expected to plead guilty in January.
A coroner’s inquiry for the two men who died is also expected to take place.
Separately, SMRT said in a news release on Friday that it will set up a joint task force for safety and security with the National Transport Workers' Union to support its push towards zero safety breaches. The task force will meet monthly to review workplace safety matters.