SMRT worker who died at Bishan depot was hit by 5kg rod that shot out of machine, coroner's court hears
SINGAPORE: An SMRT technical officer in a fatal workplace accident at Bishan Depot last year was hit by a rod that shot out of a machine he was operating, a coroner's court heard on Friday (Feb 26).
Mr Muhammad Afiq Senawi, 30, was operating a hydraulic press machine in the rolling stock workshop – where maintenance of trains and their components are carried out – when the incident occurred, the court heard on the first day of an inquiry into his death.
The investigation officer in charge of the case testified that Mr Afiq had gone to work as normal on Mar 23, 2020, and was assigned to a particular work station with a buddy.
At least two people were assigned to each station, which required the use of a hydraulic press machine to remove components from guiding rod arms, due to the weight of the guiding rod arm.
Mr Afiq went to the work station first after the safety briefing ended that morning, but his buddy – who was assigned with him to that station for the first time – went off for a work-related discussion.
When the buddy arrived at the work station, he did not check with Mr Afiq if he had done the safety checks, as he assumed Mr Afiq had completed them.
They were tasked with removing and installing components on a pallet containing eight to 10 pieces of rod arms.
They agreed to take turns, with one person operating the machine while the other acted as an assistant to guide or help place equipment.
Mr Afiq's buddy went first, and the pair went through two guiding rod arms with no issue. When Mr Afiq began operating the machine on the third arm, his buddy said he wanted to help the way he normally did but Mr Afiq "insisted he wanted to do (it) himself".
His buddy stood aside to watch, but noticed that a pad was not aligned properly and asked Mr Afiq to remove the newly installed component as it was damaged.
The buddy turned to check how many arms were left in the pallet, and turned back to see Mr Afiq placing components on the work station. He was unsure of what Mr Afiq was doing but did not think much of it as he thought Mr Afiq, who was his senior, would know what he was doing.
When Mr Afiq pressed on the piston of the machine, his buddy asked him to stop as he noticed that the piston was moving very slowly and thought something was stuck or that something had gone wrong.
Mr Afiq agreed and lifted up the piston slowly. At this point, the buddy said he looked away at the pallet again to check how many rod arms were left.
BUDDY HEARD A LOUD BANG
He heard the piston operating, followed by a loud "bang". He jumped backwards in shock and saw Mr Afiq falling backwards. He also saw various pieces of equipment scattered in the machine, and a hole in a hydraulic press fencing gate that was meant to keep people from reaching into the machine.
Mr Afiq was lying face up in front of the hydraulic press machine, gasping for air. Immediately, colleagues rushed to help him, while the buddy was in shock and could not answer questions.
According to the investigation officer, a spacer rod that was initially inside the hydraulic press machine is believed to have shot out, penetrating the fencing around the machine and hitting Mr Afiq.
Mr Afiq was seen lying down with his eyes open and his mouth closed. A colleague saw blood stains around his chin area and opened his mouth with a gloved hand to check if he was choking, as Mr Afiq did not respond to his name.
Blood started gushing out of his mouth, said the investigation officer, and the colleague pulled out Mr Afiq's tongue to stop him from choking and put him in a recovery position.
Paramedics arrived swiftly and took him to hospital, where doctors observed that he had been working when an object that weighed 5kg flew into his face.
He died later that day, with an autopsy report identifying face and chest injuries as the cause of his death. No foul play was found, the investigation officer said.
The inquiry was attended by Mr Afiq's loved ones, including his sister and fiancee.
The coroner told the family that he will adjourn the hearing to a later date for an officer from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to respond to some queries he had on the ministry's report into the incident.
The questions he posed to MOM include whether there was a safety checklist, if there was a set of standard operating procedures for the machine and if this was complied with.