Construction foreman jailed 9 weeks over accident that left worker paralysed

A photo showing the ceiling panel on which Miah Jobayed had been standing on when it gave way. (PHOTO: Ministry of Manpower)

SINGAPORE — A construction foreman for Ava Global has been jailed nine weeks over an accident that left one of the company’s workers permanently disabled.

Sarkar Mithun was found guilty of negligence under the Workplace Health and Safety Act (WSHA) over the accident that took place in September 2016, according to a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) press release on Wednesday (22 May).

Ava Global was also fined $210,000 over the incident for committing breaches under the WSHA.

Sarkar’s sentencing was the second custodial sentence impose upon a supervisor for a negligent act at a workplace.

On 2 November last year, GS Engineering & Construction foreman Nurun Novi Saydur Rahman was jailed 25 weeks over a negligent act in January 2014 which led to the deaths of two workers.

Injured worker fell 5.5m

Sarkar was appointed as a foreman to supervise the installation of tubular ceiling panels at a building belonging to the National University of Singapore. Ava Global had been sub-contracted by Ken-Pal to carry out the works.

As Sarkar was not given any installation instructions, he decided on the method to be used himself. He had based his approach on “observations of how the panels were installed previously by a different company”, said MOM.

On 14 September 2016, another Ava Global employee – Miah Jobayed – used a boom lift to reach the building’s ceiling level to carry out the works while under Sarkar’s supervision.

Jobayed then “climbed above the ceiling level and stood on a steel structure without any fall protection equipment”. The boom lift was then used by Sarkar and another worker to bring another panel up to ceiling level.

As Sarkar and the other worker lifted the panel above their heads and were aligning it into position, Jobayed moved to stand on one of the previously installed ceiling panels. The panel gave way, causing Jobayed to fall 5.5m to the ground.

He was conveyed to the National University Hospital and underwent surgery. Jobayed was found to have sustained a spinal cord injury, which resulted in permanent paralysis and has left him wheelchair-bound.

MOM’s investigation results

MOM said its investigations revealed that Sarkar had not obtained a permit-to-work (PTW) prior to carrying out the panel installations.

Supervisors are required to obtained PTWs from an authorised manager before conducting works more than 3m above ground. The PTWs allow “for an independent safety evaluation on the procedures and methods involved in the works to be conducted before commencement”, said MOM.

“In this case, Sarkar decided on the procedures and methods on his own. He also failed to ensure that the workers wore safety harnesses or helmets,” the ministry added.

MOM added that AVA Global also had the duty to take “reasonably practicable measures” to ensure the safety and health of its employees. It noted that the company had failed to:

  • manage the risks arising from the installation works

  • establish a proper method for carrying out the works

  • obtain a PTW before carrying out hazardous work at height

  • ensure that all its employees were adequately trained to carry out the works

  • ensure that its employees were using protective gear while carrying out the works

Noting the incident was preventable, the director of MOM’s occupational safety and health inspectorate Sebastian Tan said, “In this instance, there was no culture of care and trust evident at the worksite. As a result, a worker is now wheelchair-bound for life.”

“The MOM will not hesitate to take action against employers and supervisors who blatantly disregard their workers’ safety and health,” he added.

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