SMRT director fined $55,000 over death of two trainees on MRT track

Wan Ting Koh
An SMRT train arriving at a station in Singapore July 19, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)
An SMRT train arriving at a station in Singapore July 19, 2016. (Photo: Reuters)

A director of SMRT Trains was fined $55,000 on Friday (29 September) for safety lapses that led to the death of two trainees on an MRT track near Pasir Ris Station last year.

Teo Wee Kiat, 41, director of SMRT Trains Control Operations, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to take measures to ensure the safety of SMRT Trains employees, resulting in the death of the trainees after they were hit by an oncoming train. Teo was ordered to pay the fine by 6 October.

On 22 March last year, Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 25, and Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, died after being hit by a train while they were inspecting a mechanical fault on the track, two months after joining SMRT.

Teo, who has been in the post since April 2015, failed to ensure that employees complied with the approved operating procedures when accessing the track during traffic hours. He also failed to ensure that the procedures practised by employees to access the train track passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

Assistant Engineer Lim Say Heng, who was in charge of the team that included the two trainees, faces one charge of causing death by a negligent act. His case will be heard on 16 January.

SMRT was fined $400,000 in February this year for the safety lapses that led to the fatal accident after pleading guilty to one charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act in February this year.

On the day of the accident, the trainees were part of the team of 15 SMRT employees who were deployed to inspect a fault detected on the track between Pasir Ris station and Tampines station on the East-West MRT line. The fault was located some 190 metres from the Pasir Ris station platform.

The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala, sought a fine of $60,000, calling the accident “SMRT’s worst fatal rail accident to date”.

The DPP said that Teo admitted that while he was heading the Operations Control Centre (OCC), he had known that the OCC had been permitting employees to conduct track access in contravention of operating procedures.

“He failed to stop such practices from continuing when it came to his knowledge. It becomes patently clear that the accused has fallen far short of the standard expected of him, when we consider that on top of (him) being a long-standing employee of SMRT,” said the DPP.

According to Teo’s lawyer, Adam Maniam, his client was not involved in granting track access on a daily basis, including the day of the accident. His client was at a dialogue session when the accident occurred, said the lawyer.

“[Teo] was not aware that the Chief Controller did not comply with operating procedures…he only found out about this during investigations carried out after incident,” said Mariam. As such, Teo’s culpability for the incident was “low”, the lawyer added.

But District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt disagreed, saying that the harm caused in this case was high. Teo could have been fined up to $200,000 and/or jailed up to two year.

– Additional reporting by Nigel Chin