Lorry company owner fined record $140,000 by MOM for fatal incident from unsafe lifting operations

The Ministry of Manpower building. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)
FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore

SINGAPORE — A sole proprietor of a lorry company has been fined $140,000 for a fatal incident arising from unsafe lifting operations, the highest ever imposed on an individual for an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Act.

In a media release on Friday (13 September), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that Ong Chin Chong, who owns Hiap Seng Lorry Enterprises, failed to ensure that the lorry chain was in good condition and his workers were trained to perform the operations.

Ong, who was fined on 2 September, also did not appoint a lifting supervisor, rigger and signalman for the lifting and rigging activities and implement a lifting plan for safe lifting operations, which are requirements under WSH regulations.

“As the employer, Ong failed to conduct a specific risk assessment for lifting operations to identify foreseeable hazards and establish control measures to reduce the risks the workers were exposed to,” MOM said in the media release.

The maximum sentence for such offences is a $200,000 fine and/or up to two years’ jail.

Unloading of wire mesh bundle

Ong was contracted by transportation company Unipac Transport Service to deliver materials to a maker of precast concrete products, Sunway Concrete Products, at its Tampines Industrial Street 62 premises.

On 26 April 2016, Ong and two of his workers, Venugopal Sarath Kumar and Dhatchinamoorthy Karthik, were unloading a bundle of wire mesh from their lorry using the vehicle’s hydraulic crane arm. Ong operated the lorry crane and supervised the lifting operation, while the workers were tasked to rig and align the bundle of wire mesh during lifting.

The bundle of wire mesh slanted while in transit, prompting the two workers to align the bundle with their bare hands.

However, the bundle – which weighed about 1.57 tonnes – suddenly dislodged from the lifting chain and struck Kumar. He was pronounced dead at the scene by attending paramedics.

Investigation findings by MOM

Investigations by MOM revealed that the two-legged lifting chain had a hook on one leg and a shackle that was barely secured by a steel wire on the other leg. The steel wire loosened and was dislodged from the shackle during the fatal lifting operation.

Both Kumar and Karthik were employed as technicians, and had neither attended courses on safe lifting operations nor were briefed on proper rigging or lifting methods.

Sebastian Tan, MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said, “As the employer, Ong disregarded his workers’ safety and essentially left them to their own devices to manage the lifting activities. He failed to establish basic requirements such as a lifting plan and did not ensure that his workers were trained to conduct lifting operations.”

Other parties also fined

In connection with the same incident, Unipac was fined $60,000 for failing to ensure that its contractor had conducted an adequate risk assessment for the delivery of materials and developed appropriate control measures.

Sunway, the occupier of the worksite, was also fined $160,000 for failing to ensure that the lifting works carried by external parties at its premises had followed a set of procedures, and that the lifting chain used by Hiap Seng was certified by an authorised examiner.

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