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Shipyard operator fined S$200,000 after worker dies in forklift crash

SINGAPORE — Bangladeshi worker Rahman Zillur was walking along the side of a ship when a forklift operated by another worker crashed through a guardrail and hit him, killing him at the scene.

Shipyard operator Asia Pacific Shipyard pleaded guilty to offences under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

Shipyard operator Asia Pacific Shipyard pleaded guilty to offences under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

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  • Bangladeshi worker Rahman Zillur, 30, died after a forklift hit him at a shipyard
  • The forklift was operated by another worker who was not trained to use it
  • Shipyard operator Asia Pacific Shipyard was fined S$200,000 after pleading guilty to offences under the Workplace Safety and Health Act  

SINGAPORE — Bangladeshi worker Rahman Zillur was walking along the side of a ship when a forklift operated by another worker crashed through a guardrail and hit him, killing him at the scene.

On Wednesday (Oct 26), shipyard operator Asia Pacific Shipyard was fined S$200,000 for not taking “reasonably practicable measures” to ensure the safety and health of its workers, which resulted in Rahman’s death in 2019.

In a news release on Thursday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said that the firm had pleaded guilty to offences under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

WHAT HAPPENED

On May 26 in 2019, Rahman, then 30, was working for Chye Joo Marine when he was deployed to the shipyard in the Pioneer area as a structural steel and ship painter.

Another worker, Shanmugam Sivarasu, was driving a forklift in order to pick up a blasting pot placed along the guardrail.

When he realised that the positioning was not aligned to pick up the pot, Shanmugam pressed on the acceleration pedal to quickly raise the forks but forgot that the forklift was placed in forward gear instead of neutral gear.

The entire forklift surged forward and one other worker who was holding onto the chain of the pot had to drop the chain and get out of the way in the nick of time, though he still sustained minor injuries.

However, after the forklift crashed through the guardrail, it fell onto the path where Rahman was. He was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. 

MOM’s investigations found that that Shanmugam did not have any training to use the machinery and he knew that the forklift’s brakes were faulty.

He had been sentenced earlier in July to 11 months’ jail.

“His reckless act directly caused the death of Rahman,” MOM said.

Another man, Yeduvaka Mali Naid — whom MOM identified as the supervisor in charge of the team working at the site — was sentenced to 11 months’ jail in August on the prosecution’s appeal.  

“He had allowed Shanmugam, an untrained worker, to operate forklifts on multiple occasions despite knowing that the worker was not certified, trained nor competent to do so.

“In addition, he 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,” MOM added.

Investigations by the ministry found that Asia Pacific Shipyard had failed to prevent the unauthorised operation of forklifts at the workplace as well as ensuring the proper maintenance of the forklifts kept at its premises.

Court documents showed that the company did not have any system to ensure that only authorised personnel operated the forklifts.

Its staff members at the shipyard would pass the keys to forklift operators or leave the keys on the forklifts. There was no procedure to regulate the issuing and return of the ignition keys.

On the day of the crash, the forklift being used had an ignition keyhole that was faulty and the vehicle could be started with any random key and used by anyone, which was what happened when Yeduvaka went to start the forklift using his locker key.

The firm had also failed to ensure that the maintenance and repair of the forklifts was performed only by “competent persons”, MOM said.

These failures resulted in the fatal accident that claimed Rahman’s life, it added.

“Given these lapses and the company’s negligence, which resulted in the death of a worker, they were fined S$200,000.”

Mr Sebastian Tan, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate, said that Asia Pacific Shipyard had failed to put in place rudimentary measures to manage their forklift operations, which then led to “lax practices” on the ground that culminated in the fatality.

“This is unacceptable and totally preventable. Everyone has a part to play in taking ownership of workplace safety and health — 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.

“MOM strongly urges all stakeholders to make workplace safety and health a priority,” Mr Tan added.

Related topics

workplace safety death shipyard MOM migrant worker

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