Manager jailed over worker's death

He pled guilty to committing a negligent act which endangers the health and safety of others

Manager jailed over worker's death

A construction manager has been jailed for 11 months following the death of a worker on his site and the construction company and its director have been charged for failing to take reasonably practicable steps in ensuring their workers' safety.

Kong Chiew Fook had more than 30 years of experience in the construction industry but pled guilty to committing a negligent act which endangers the health and safety of others after he instructed the workers to follow an unsafe demolition method.

Sebastian Tan, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) director of its Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said, “Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, we can hold managers or supervisors personally accountable for safety and health lapses as shown by Kong’s imprisonment.”

Kong was provided with the demolition plan, method statement, and structural drawings for the works that were required to be carried out with established safety protocols and in strict compliance with the “Code of Practice on Demolition.” He was also aware of the correct demolition method to ensure structural stability.

“The sequence of demolition and control measures must be clearly communicated to the team and strictly adhered to during the demolition process. Ensuring workplace safety and health requires the commitment by all parties from management to supervisors to individual workers,” said Tan.

However, a month before the fatal accident he instructed workers to follow an unsafe demolition method, telling them to hack away the supporting walls of a ground level balcony. A month later when a worker hacked at a parapet wall on the second floor, the floor slab of the balcony at level two collapsed pinning a worker underneath it and throwing another worker from a one tier scaffold.

Workers scrambled to lift the floor slab with an excavator, but the worker was pronounced dead at the scene. The worker thrown from the scaffolding spent two months in hospital with multiple fractures.

Kong could have received up to two years jail time, fined up to $30,000 or both under the Workplace Health and Safety Act. Defence lawyer, Marshall Lim said his client was truly saddened by the death of a worker in his care and had an impeccable safety record before the incident and highlighted the courage shown by Kong in coming forward and taking responsibility for his actions.

Lim asked for a compassionate sentencing of not more than 10 months stating that Kong had a clean record prior to the incident and that Kong is the sole income for his family and his wife and him were both not well.

MOM prosecutor Mohd Fadhli sought 12 to 14 months jail arguing that Kong’s experience in the industry meant he would’ve known the risk of the structure collapsing and when there are workers demolishing structures adherence to established practice was vital.

“In light of this case and a fatal demolition accident on 10 June, the MOM would like to remind all contractors that there must be thorough risk assessments for any demolition works,” said Tan. “Ensuring workplace safety and health requires the commitment by all parties from management to supervisors to individual workers,” he added.

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