Site supervisor jailed 16 weeks for asking worker to take blame for fatal accident

The machinery storage yard at Kranji Link where the fatal accident occurred in 2016. (PHOTO: Ministry of Manpower)

SINGAPORE — A machinery storage yard site supervisor was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail for offences related to a fatal workplace accident in 2016, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a media release on Saturday (13 April).

Tay Yong Chuan, a site supervisor for ZAP Piling Pte Ltd, was sentenced to eight weeks’ jail under the Penal Code for intentionally obstructing the course of justice by asking a worker to take the blame for the fatal incident.

He was slapped with another eight weeks’ imprisonment under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for instructing his worker to carry out lifting operations involving a crawler crane without a permit-to-work and a lifting plan.

The company itself was fined $290,000 for the same accident on 3 May 2018.

Performing test of bore piling machine

The accident occurred on 9 June 2016 at the company’s machinery storage yard, located at 6 Kranji Link. On that day, the company’s workers were tasked to perform a functional test of a bore piling machine at the storage yard.

On Tay’s instructions, crawler crane operator Cai Guanglin used the crane to shift a boring bucket, which was in front of the bore piling machine, to a location next to a stack of bore pile casings.

This operation was done without applying for a permit-to-work (PTW) and a lifting plan. A lifting plan would have required Tay to mark the lift’s zone of operation, consider the existing obstructions and establish effective communication among the workers involved.

Another worker, Arumugam Elango, rigged the bucket with the crane’s chain slings and moved to a space in between the machine and the stack of casings. When Cai began operating the crane, the bucket knocked against the casings, causing some of them to topple and pin Elango against the track of the bore machine.

Each of the fallen casings weighed about 1.76 tonnes. Elango was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple injuries.

Persuading another worker to accept blame

At the time of the incident, another worker named Mamun was sitting inside an excavator cabin. Tay and the company’s plant manager decided to persuade Mamun to accept the blame for the accident.

Mamun and another worker, A.B.M. Sumon, were called into the store area, where Tay coached Mamun to say that his excavator had touched the casings, causing them to collapse and hit Elango.

Unknown to Tay and the plant manager, Mamun had covertly recorded this conversation on his mobile phone. When he was informed that he would be charged for doing a negligent act which endangered the safety of others, he then provided the recording to MOM investigators. His charge was eventually withdrawn.

Failure to apply for permit, have a lifting plan

MOM’s investigations revealed that Tay’s negligence, in not applying for a PTW and not having a lifting plan, had endangered the safety of his employees.

Furthermore, he and the company’s plant manager, knowing that the accident would be investigated by the relevant authorities, intended to obstruct the course of justice by shifting the blame for the accident to Mamun.

MOM said that Tay had neither witnessed the accident nor reasonably believed that Mamun was responsible for the accident. By asking Mamun to accept the blame for the accident, Tay had abetted the offence of intentionally obstructing the course of justice. As a result of the company’s plant manager’s instigation, Sumon, who was afraid of losing his job, also made false statements against Mamun.

Sebastian Tan, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said, “Tay, as the site supervisor, not only failed to ensure a safe working environment for his workers during the lifting operation but took advantage of his supervisory position to attempt to pervert the course of justice.

“MOM takes a very serious view on this and will press for custodial sentences against those who put their workers at risk and attempt to obstruct the course of justice.”

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