SMRT to review safety protocols after fatal accident near Pasir Ris station

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Photo by SMRT

SMRT announced a review of its safety protocols on Tuesday (22 March) and revealed more details about a fatal accident near the Pasir Ris MRT station that cost the lives of two maintenance staff.

“We are reviewing all of our safety protocols that are in place and to see how we can make any further improvements on the systems and the standards that are in place today at SMRT,” said Desmond Kuek, CEO of the train operator, at a media conference.

Two trainee staff Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, died on Tuesday after they were hit by a train before they were about to conduct maintenance on a point machine located 200m away from the station. The accident happened after the staff, who only joined the company in January, had already walked for 150 metres towards the machine.

“I know there are questions about what happened, how it could have happened. The investigations are ongoing and we’re also supporting the police and the Ministry of Manpower as they conduct their investigations, and they should be able to get to some of the reasons,” Kuek said.

There were 15 staff on the walkway before the two victims were hit by a train, which was coming from the opposite direction. The walkway, where maintenance staff walk on when conducting checks, measures 0.5 metres in width and is located beside the track.

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Photo by SMRT

“This is the walkway where staff who is doing maintenance will walk. And they have been doing this all the time, this is a safe passage for staff to walk,” Kuek said.

“What we know is that they were walking along in a single file along the side, along the walkway. They were the number two and number three (in the file), the supervisor was in front of them.

“Exactly how they got onto the track, or got close enough to the oncoming train that was moving in the direction opposite to them, is the issue that we are trying to establish with the witnesses that we are trying to get a detailed account from,” Kuek said.

The incoming train was being driven on “auto mode” at a speed of about 60km per hour. There were about 35 passengers on the train when the accident happened.

In line with standard maintenance procedures, the operations control centre has to grant two permissions to staff who conduct checks on the track.

Prior to the accident, the first permission was granted to the 15 maintenance staff to go down to the track to conduct their checks. A second permission was required to be granted at the 200-metres mark, where the point machine is located but the accident occurred before the victims could reach their destination.

Power was also supposed to be switched off for the maintenance to take place, but it didn’t happen in time, Kuek said.

“When we detect a fault and we need to troubleshoot it, the first course of action is to go down onto the site to determine what is the cause of the signal or the fault.

“The only way to do so to get access to the track while service is on, is to walk on the side with supervision and control from operations control centre, with all the safety and permissions granted,” said Kuek.

When asked if the train driver was alerted to the presence of staff on the track, Kuek said, “The train drivers typically look out, they can see what’s happening on the track as they are passing through.”

The drivers will also typically receive alerts from the operations control centre about maintenance activities that are taking place along the track. But Kuek didn’t reveal whether the driver of the train involved in the accident was alerted to the presence of the maintenance staff.

He also explained that there were no CCTVs in the vicinity of the accident.

During the conference, there was no mention of a stop work order following the accident.

SMRT is “deeply saddened” by the passing of its two maintenance workers and counselling will be provided to its staff to help them cope with their grief, Kuek said.

SMRT also said that its executives will be meeting the parents of the deceased.

“Our thoughts and our prayers are with their families, and we are extending all the support and assistance that we can to help them through in this time of need,” said Kuek.

Ministers extend condolences to victims’ families

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong extended his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased via a Facebook post.

“We understand that faults and malfunctions do happen in our train system, and generally take them in our stride. But it is different when two young men lose their lives in a workplace accident.

“SMRT is working with the police to investigate the matter, to find out how the accident occurred. Whether it turns out to be an unforeseeable mishap, an individual lapse or a system problem, we must do our best to ensure this does not happen again,” he said.

Transport minister Khaw Boon Wan expressed sadness at the passing of Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf.

“We are gathering the details to understand how the accident happened and how the safety procedures could be further strengthened. Meanwhile, our hearts are with the families and will do our best to support and assist them,” Khaw said in a post on his Facebook account.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing also conveyed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims in a Facebook post.

“The National Transport Workers’ Union will do what is necessary to support affected workers and their families during this difficult time. We must all do our part to keep each other safe at the workplace. Every accident is one accident too many.”

Related story:

2 SMRT maintenance staff dead after track incident near Pasir Ris MRT station

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