Man crushed to death by 2-tonne container because safety procedures not followed: Coroner

Shaffiq Alkhatib
The Straits Times
May 26, 2023

A quality control surveyor was killed after a shipping container weighing more than two tonnes was lowered onto him, and the state coroner has found that the stacker operator who moved it had failed to comply with safety procedures.

In his findings into Mr Teo Ser Kiong’s death, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda said that Mr Arumugam Ganesan had driven a stacker while concurrently lowering a container at a depot in Pioneer Crescent on Oct 1, 2021.

The State Coroner added: “He failed to see that Mr Teo was standing where he intended to place the… container and as a result, the container was lowered onto Mr Teo.

“I found that this failure to comply with the (safe work procedures) measures dealing with moving and placing shipping containers was the primary reason for the accident.”

In addition, he found that Mr Teo, 49, who was also an operations executive for Allied Container (Engineers & Manufacturers), had not complied with a key requirement of the firm’s traffic management plan (TMP).

In his findings dated May 19, 2023, the State Coroner said that, according to evidence, Mr Teo did not inform a depot manager he was entering the working area where the containers were located. The TMP required staff to notify the depot manager before going into such an area.

The depot manager would then alert stacker operators, so the operators could either avoid the area or stop work in the relevant area that the staff would be in.

State Coroner Nakhoda, who found Mr Teo’s death to be a work-related misadventure, said that while there was an attempt to demarcate pedestrian and vehicular areas within the depot, the demarcation was not consistently maintained as it had faded due to erosion.

Stressing that the demarcated safe pedestrian walkways should have been maintained regardless of the speed at which the lines faded, he added: “If this required more frequent repainting of the markings, then this should have been done.

“If there had been clearly demarcated areas for vehicles and pedestrians… then it was possible that Mr Teo would have realised that he was standing in a non-pedestrian area and moved to a safer pedestrian area to complete his task.”

Mr Teo joined Allied on March 1, 2015. His job entailed surveying, inspecting and verifying containers within the depot, which was primarily used as a storage facility for empty shipping containers.

Shortly before the tragedy, he was seen holding a stack of papers while standing at a storage area and appeared to be checking some containers.

At around 8.45am on Oct 1, 2021, Mr Arumugam used a stacker to move a container that was 6.06m long, 2.44m wide and 2.59m high.

State Coroner Nakhoda said: “When Mr Arumugam fully lowered the accident container to ground level… he observed that the container was uneven on the ground.

“From experience, he realised that this meant that there was something underneath the accident container.”

Mr Arumugam then operated the stacker to raise the container and saw Mr Teo lying on the ground. He immediately got out of the stacker and told a depot manager about what had happened.

The police and Singapore Civil Defence Force were alerted at about 9am and Mr Teo, who suffered multiple injuries, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The tragedy was the 30th workplace fatality in 2021. In total, there were 37 workplace deaths for the whole of that year.

There were 46 workplace fatalities in 2022 and, as at May 23, there have been 11 workplace deaths in 2023.

In a bid to improve worker safety, firms will have to deploy video surveillance systems at construction sites for projects valued at $5 million or more from June 2024.

The new requirement is part of a suite of measures the Ministry of Manpower announced on Tuesday to reduce workplace deaths and injuries.

The Straits Times

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