Woman fined S$100,000 for lapses in workplace safety that led to her worker's fatal electrocution
SINGAPORE: A woman was fined $100,000 by a court on Tuesday (Sep 20) in relation to the death of a worker who was electrocuted while replacing a roller shutter.
Lee Ee Ten, 65, was the employer of the deceased electrician, Mr Tong Baorong. She pleaded guilty to one count of failing to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of her employees at work, thereby causing Mr Tong's death.
The court heard that Lee was a partner at Tan Kim Seng Roller Shutters, which repaired and replaced motors of roller shutters.
In early November 2019, a construction company hired Tan Kim Seng to replace the motor of a roller shutter at the Tritech Building in 31 Changi South Avenue 2.
Lee, who was in charge of her company's operations and safety and health matters, deployed a team comprising Mr Tong and two other workers to the site.
At about 9.30am, on Nov 7, 2019, they arrived at the building. Mr Tong climbed an aluminium ladder to turn off the isolator of the roller shutter's motor and began replacing the motor.
The ladder was about 5.9m long and was placed at an angle against the frame of the roller shutter. The other two workers helped Mr Tong by holding onto his ladder and giving him the replacement motor.
About 10 minutes later, Mr Tong successfully mounted the motor and connected it to the isolator. As the metal frame of the motor was connected to the live terminal of the main electricity supply, the frame and all conductive materials including the aluminium ladder became live when Mr Tong turned on the isolator.
He fell of the ladder instantly and landed face down on the ground, court documents said. He was taken to hospital but died later that morning of electrocution with multiple injuries.
"At all material times, Mr Tong did not open the isolator cover to check the wiring configuration," said the prosecutor.
"He had assumed that the electricity supply from the isolator was single-phase when it was in fact three-phase. Mr Tong connected the replacement motor to the isolator based on this incorrect assumption. The switch for the main electricity supply was turned on at that time."
As the employer of the team, Lee failed to take several necessary measures. She did not properly conduct a risk assessment to identify the electrocution hazard and associated risks, nor to establish and implement safe work procedures to minimise and control the risks.
She had conducted a risk assessment, but it identified only the hazards of being struck by falling objects and falling from height. The assessment failed to identify the hazard of electrocution, even though the job involved working with live electrical apparatus.
As part of safety measures, Lee should have identified the hazard of electrocution and implement control measures.
This includes checking if the electricity supply was three-phase or single phase, wearing insulative protective equipment and maintaining a safe distance from energised parts.
Investigations revealed that Lee had failed to ensure that her team had adequate instruction, information and training that was necessary for them to finish the job.
Although she carried out toolbox meetings with her employees, she was unfamiliar with the works they performed and the safety precautions they must take.
None of the employees in the team had completed the required training course before erecting scaffolds and were untrained and unqualified, court documents stated.
Lee was allowed to pay the fine in instalments by February 2023.
She could have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$200,000, or both.