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Coroner rules death of SMRT technical officer hit by 2.9kg rod an ‘unfortunate misadventure’

SINGAPORE — A technical officer employed by rail operator SMRT was using a hydraulic press machine at Bishan Depot last year, when a 2.9kg rod flew out of the machine and struck him in the face. On Tuesday (March 23), Muhammad Afiq Senawi’s death was ruled an unfortunate misadventure after a coroner’s inquiry into his death.

Coroner rules death of SMRT technical officer hit by 2.9kg rod an ‘unfortunate misadventure’

A file photo of Bishan Depot. Muhammad Afiq Senawi was working at the depot when he was fatally wounded.

  • SMRT employee Muhammad Afiq Senawi was operating a hydraulic press machine at Bishan Depot with a colleague
  • A piece of equipment flew out of it, striking him in the face
  • The 30-year-old died in hospital from his injuries later that day
  • A coroner found no evidence of foul play in his death and ruled it an unfortunate misadventure

 

SINGAPORE — A technical officer employed by rail operator SMRT was using a hydraulic press machine at Bishan Depot last year, when a 2.9kg rod flew out of the machine and struck him in the face.

On Tuesday (March 23), Muhammad Afiq Senawi’s death was ruled an unfortunate misadventure after a coroner’s inquiry into his death.

Coroner Christopher Goh found that there was no evidence of foul play and gave his deepest condolences to Afiq’s family and fiancee, who were in court.

Afiq, 30, who was engaged to be married when he died on March 23 last year, worked at the depot’s rolling stock workshop and dealt with MRT train cabins.

He was taking turns operating the machine with another technical officer on the morning of March 23 last year. 

His co-worker Muhammad Halmie Hamidi did not confirm with him if safety checks had been done, and had looked away from the machine before he heard a bang.

Coroner Goh noted that Afiq and Halmie had been standing in front of the machine within the hazardous area, which was not properly demarcated.

Afiq had also failed to check one part of the machine for obstructions, leading to the rod being forcefully ejected from the machine.

“There were safety measures in place, but it was regretful that this particular scenario did not seem to have been envisaged,” Coroner Goh said, adding that SMRT has since implemented measures to prevent this from happening again.

The hazardous area has also been marked out to indicate where machine operators should position themselves while using the machine, while tools have been redesigned and renamed to help employees.

A coroner’s inquiry is not to apportion blame but to determine why and how a death occurred, Coroner Goh told the court.

WHAT HAPPENED

Staff Sergeant Amirudin Nordin, an investigation officer from the police, previously testified that Afiq and Halmie had not operated the machine together, but had individually worked on it and were familiar with the procedures.

At least two technical officers must be at that workstation at all times, because both are needed to move equipment in the machine. One operates the machine and the other guides him.

While it was not mandated that the two officers take turns to be operator and assistant, Mr Halmie told investigators that the men had agreed between themselves to do so.

That morning, after a safety briefing, Mr Halmie met a safety officer to discuss an earlier incident. 

When he got to the workstation at about 9am, he assumed that Afiq had performed the necessary safety checks since he was already in front of the machine.

The pair started work right away and things went smoothly when Mr Halmie installed the first two pieces of equipment. Afiq then took over.

Mr Halmie observed alignment problems and said that some parts needed to be removed first from the machine. 

Staff Sergeant Amirudin said that Mr Halmie then said he looked away for a few seconds to see how many pellets were left and noticed Afiq inserting a spacer rod into the machine.

He did not say anything because Afiq was in a more senior position and he thought Afiq knew what he was doing.

As Afiq pressed down on a piston — a short piece of metal that moves up and down a cylinder — Mr Halmie noticed that it was moving very slowly and told him to stop. 

Mr Halmie then looked away again to check on the pellets and heard the machine being operated. Then a bang was heard.

Jumping backwards due to shock, he saw Afiq fall backwards. The rod had penetrated a metal fence around the machine, which was meant to prevent workers putting their hands into the machine, and struck Afiq.

As he lay on the ground gasping for air, other SMRT employees — including their supervisor — performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and called for an ambulance.

Another employee, who was operating a crane nearby, opened Afiq’s mouth to check if he was choking. That was when blood gushed out. 

Afiq was taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital, but further efforts to resuscitate him failed. He was pronounced dead at about 11am on the same day.

Autopsy findings showed several injuries on the lower part of his face, with a cut extending from his lower lip to chin. No alcohol or drugs were found in his blood and urine samples.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of the story, we reported that the rod that struck the deceased weighed 5kg. It was later clarified in court that the rod weighed 2.9kg. We are sorry for the error.

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SMRT technical officer death coroner's inquiry safety

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