Diving supervisor gets jail over death of diver who was sucked into ship pipe, firm fined S$300,000
SINGAPORE: An assistant diving supervisor whose teammate died under his watch after being sucked into a ship pipe was sentenced to 12 weeks' jail on Tuesday (Aug 11).
The company he worked for, Underwater Contractors, was fined S$300,000 in relation to the case. Both the company and the supervisor intend to appeal against conviction and sentence.
David Ng Wei Li, 37, was found guilty in February of one charge of performing a negligent act endangering the safety of others under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
Underwater Contractors was convicted under the same act of failing to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of its employees.
The deceased, 36-year-old Kwok Khee Khoon, died of traumatic asphyxia in June 2014 after the accident occurred while he was carrying out underwater works on a docked vessel.
Ng led the team of five divers, including Mr Kwok, to carry out underwater survey works at the MV Frisia Kiel vessel at Singapore's Eastern Anchorage on Jun 4, 2014.
Mr Kwok's duties included opening and cleaning the grates of sea chests, which are portholes meant to suck in seawater to cool the ship's engines and generators.
Work commenced after Ng briefed his team. Ng was doing welding inside the starboard sea chest box that evening when he felt a fin slap his head and turned to see Mr Kwok being sucked into the pipe orifice.
Ng pulled on Mr Kwok's hand, but the suction force was too great. Ng exited the sea chest box to get help and to get the pump shut down.
He had earlier been told that the port-side sea chest would be shut down, but the starboard sea chest would be kept in reduced flow.
Mr Kwok was rescued after the starboard sea chest pump was shut down, but was pronounced dead that night.
The prosecution had argued that the accident could have been prevented if the sea chest pumps were ensured to be shut. If this was not possible, the diving supervisor should have aborted the operation, said the Ministry of Manpower prosecutors.
Underwater Contractors, a company conducting ship repairs and marine diving, was found guilty of failing to ensure that adequate safe work procedures were taken for the process used by the divers, and for failing to implement risk control that had been identified in its risk assessment.
MOM prosecutors Delvinder Singh and Shanty Priya said the safest manner of performing the diving works was to completely shut down the pumps in the sea chests that the divers worked in.
Defence lawyers said there were "third-party risk or interference that was beyond" the company's control, and argued that someone had increased the suction at the starboard sea chest pumps. The prosecutors objected to both these arguments.
The company could have been fined up to S$500,000, while Ng faced a maximum two years' jail, a fine of up to S$30,000, or both.