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Shipyard operator fined S$200,000 over negligence that led to worker death

In Singapore a local Singapore shipyard operator was charged and fined under the Workplace Safety Health Act for S$200,000 on 27th October 2022. The shipyard, Asia Pacific Shipyards was fined in relation to the death of a worker who died after he was hit by a forklift in 2019.

During his work at Asia Pacific Shipyard on May 26, 2019, 30 year-old Bangladeshi painter and blaster Rahman Zillur was assigned to work on the Asia Pacific Shipyard's (APS) site. He was walking along a slipway when a forklift transporting a blasting pot to the shipyard’s storage area suddenly accelerated forward, crashed through a guardrail and fell into the slipway said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a press release.

According to Ministry of Manpower MOM "The forklift struck Rahman, and he died at the scene from his injuries."

During the investigations, it was found that the the worker operating the forklift, Shanmugam Sivarasu operated the forklift without any training and knew that the forklift brakes were not working. The worker Shanmugam Sivarasu was sentenced on Jul 21 to 11 months' jail. His reckless act directly caused the death of Rahman said Ministry of Manpower MOM.

Yeduvaka Mali Naidu, the supervisor in charge of the team working at the site, was on Aug 10 sentenced to 11 months' jail after the prosecution's appeal. The supervisor had allowed the untrained Shanmugam to operate forklifts on multiple occasions despite knowing that he was not certified, trained nor competent to do so, the Manpower Ministry said. The supervisor was also aware that the brakes of the forklifts were faulty, but he still used the faulty forklifts and allowed the untrained Shanmugam to do so said Ministry of Manpower MOM.

After the accident the Ministry of Manpower MOM investigation found that APS, as the occupier of the workplace, had failed to prevent the unauthorised operation of forklifts, ensure their proper maintenance and that maintenance and repair was only performed by competent persons. Ministry of Manpower MOM said that Asia Pacific Shipyards APS’s failures resulted in the fatal accident.

Lax practices on the ground culminated in the fatality that happened in 2019, said Sebastian Tan, the ministry's director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, adding that the incident was "unacceptable and totally preventable".

According to the statement issued by Ministry of Manpower "Top management must take the lead by ensuring workplace safety and health management systems are effective, while supervisors and workers need to carry this through by ensuring safety practices are adhered to during operations,"

We all know that companies must provide a safe workplace for employees and anyone within the premises or anyone who may be exposed to any harm through the companies activities. In our view the management of Asia Pacific Shipyard should have known about the supervisors allowing untrained and unqualified operators operating equipment like forklifts.

They should have had a list of all their equipment as well as a list of all their licensed and trained operators. It should not just be the supervisor and the worker who operated the forklift that face jail time, the management of the company should also be questioned if they had done their due diligence and prove that they did.

If you manage a company - how can you ensure that you have an inspection regime for your equipment? How can you ensure that you have met all the training requirements. Why not speak to Simply Safety and see if our safety consultants can advice you to do better

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