SINGAPORE — The death of a security officer who fell into an exposed manhole at rooftop bar 1-Altitude could have been prevented had the safety measures been met, said a State Coroner on Thursday (13 August).
State Coroner Kamala Ponnampalam pronounced the death of Shaun Tung Mun Hoe, 26, as an unfortunate workplace accident.
Referring to a Ministry of Manpower investigation report in her findings, she said, “There is no doubt that Mr Tung and the other employers as well as the patrons present at 1-Altitude had been exposed to safety risks arising from the safety lapses at the premises.”
“Workplace fatalities and injuries can only be eliminated through strict compliance with safety standards. It is the responsibility of the occupier and the employer to do everything reasonably practicable to comply with the safe work practices,” she added.
If the safety standards had been observed, she said, the tragedy could have been avoided.
The lawyer engaged by Tung’s family, Wong Soo Chih, told Yahoo News Singapore that the family will be taking civil action against the bar.
The victim’s father, Tung Kim Swee, has said that the management should take some responsibility for his son’s death as the pit should not have been left open. The younger Tung leaves behind a young son.
In the wee hours of 9 June last year, Tung had pushed aside a barricade cordoning off an area with a manhole that remained uncovered for cleaning purposes. The part-time security officer had then run across the area in a bid to warn two patrons who had entered the area from a different direction.
However, he fell into the 3.96m pit, which was in his path. He succumbed to his head injuries at the scene and was pronounced dead at 1.44am by paramedics.
Before his shift, on 8 June, Tung had been briefed on his duties and taken around by a senior security officer who pointed out the manhole to him. He was tasked to ensure that patrons did not enter the restricted area on the second floor of the bar, which is located in the 63-storey One Raffles Place building.
A portion of the second floor had been cordoned off due to the exposed manhole. The pit usually contained a gondola, which was used to clean the facade of the building. However, facade cleaning had ceased on 29 May as the gondola was unable to move further due to movement restrictions.
Even though cleaning procedures had stopped, the pit remained uncovered as the floor slabs covering the pit weighed about 80kg and the workers involved found it troublesome to replace the slabs everyday.
The MOM report stated that it was OUB Centre's (OUBC) responsibility to ensure that the areas for the cleaning work were cordoned off properly. OUBC is the developer and manager of One Raffles Place. OUBC had been aware of the uncovered floor opening, according to MOM.
As part of a tenancy agreement between OUBC and Tung’s employer, the area around the manhole was to be cordoned off and restricted to staff and guests during the facade cleaning. The area was hence cordoned off with a yellow retractable barrier and standings tables, but no lighting or signages were placed at the immediate area around the pit.
The MOM noted in its report that the barricades used were ineffective, as the barrier and tables were not secure and could be pushed aside, and the two unidentified patrons had in fact done so before entering the restricted area.
The restricted area was also usually lit with lights attached to the furniture, but these had been cleared away to facilitate the facade cleaning. Tung’s employer then did not see fit to provide lighting, as staff and guests were already prohibited from the area.
Tung had been equipped with a torchlight. But he had directed his beam of light on the guests, rather than the ground. While Tung had been given a site orientation, he had not been instructed on what security officers were supposed to do should a guest enter the cordoned area.
The Workplace Safety and Health Council recommended that the floor openings be covered with material that is strong enough to withstand usage of the area. Even if it is needed to be removed, the cover should be replaced at the end of each workday. If a cover is not practical, the area ought to have been barricaded with fencing or hoarding to prevent entry and illuminated warning signs be placed.
Staff should also be briefed on the risks and hazards and reminded to take the necessary precautions by wearing appropriate protective equipment and using beacon lights in dark areas.
The manhole area has since been blocked off with hoarding, and security officers stationed outside the area to prevent entry.
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