55-year-old construction manager jailed following worker’s death

©GCR, illustration by Denis Carrier
A 55-year-old construction manager has been jailed for negligence in Singapore after one member of his work crew died and another was seriously injured when a floor slab collapsed during an unsafe demolition.

Kong Chiew Fook, who worked as construction manager for the company Springview Enterprises, was sentenced to 11 months’ imprisonment for offences under the Workplace Safety and Health Act yesterday. He pleaded guilty to committing a negligent act.

On 4 March 2019, three workers were carrying out construction work on a two-storey semi-detached house under the instruction of Kong. As part of the job, they had to perform demolition works.

“While the workers were hacking the balcony walls on the second floor, a floor slab gave way and collapsed, pinning a worker underneath it,” said a statement from the Ministry of Manpower. “Another worker was thrown out of a one-tier scaffold and landed on the ground floor.”

According to the ministry, colleagues tried to rescue the pinned worker by using an excavator to lift the slab, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The injured worker was taken to hospital with multiple fractures.

The ministry said Kong was provided with the demolition plan and the method statement for the demolition works. The statement required demolition works to be carried out in strict compliance to the Singapore Standards SS 557:2010 “Code of Practice on Demolition”. Kong was aware that the top-down (i.e. from roof to ground) demolition method must be used to ensure structural stability.

“Instead,” the ministry said, “Kong instructed the workers to follow an unsafe demolition sequence by hacking away the supporting walls of the ground-level balcony about a month prior to the accident. This meant that the second-level balcony floor did not have structural support underneath it.

“Kong then instructed them to hack the structures on the balcony floor slab of the second floor,” the ministry added, leading to the fatal accident.

Springview and its Director, Heng Kong Chuan, are also facing charges for failing to take reasonably practicable steps in ensuring the safety of Springview’s workers.

Sebastian Tan, the ministry’s 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. In light of this case and a fatal demolition accident on 10 June, MOM would like to remind all contractors that there must be thorough risk assessments for any demolition works.

“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.”

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