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SMRT technical officer died after 5kg rod flew out of machine and hit him in face, coroner’s court hears

SINGAPORE — While operating a hydraulic press machine at rail operator SMRT’s Bishan Depot last year, technical officer Muhammad Afiq Senawi was struck in the face by a 5kg rod that flew out of the machine.

SMRT technical officer died after 5kg rod flew out of machine and hit him in face, coroner’s court hears

An SMRT staff member died after sustaining severe injuries while working at Bishan Depot on March 23, 2020.

  • Muhammad Afiq Senawi, 30, was due to be married when he died in March 2020
  • The SMRT technical officer 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
  • He died in hospital from his injuries later that day

 

SINGAPORE — While operating a hydraulic press machine at rail operator SMRT’s Bishan Depot last year, technical officer Muhammad Afiq Senawi was struck in the face by a 5kg rod that flew out of the machine.

The 30-year-old later died from injuries to his chest and face.

These details emerged on Friday (Feb 26) during the first day of a coroner’s inquiry into his death. 

Afiq was an SMRT staff member at the depot’s rolling stock workshop, where he dealt with 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.

ASSUMED CHECKS WERE DONE

On Friday, Staff Sergeant Amirudin Nordin, an investigation officer from the Singapore Police Force, was the sole witness who testified in the coroner’s court.

Afiq was assigned to operate a hydraulic press machine that day with Mr Halmie.

Both men had not operated the machine together, but had individually worked on it and were familiar with the procedures, Staff Sergeant Amirudin said.

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.

COLLEAGUE LOOKED AWAY TWICE 

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, before a bang ensued. 

Jumping backwards due to shock, he saw Afiq fall backwards. 

The rod lay on the ground and there was a hole in a fence around the machine. The fence was meant to prevent workers putting their hands into the machine.

Staff Sergeant Amirudin said that the rod was believed to have flown out of the machine, penetrated the fence and struck Afiq.

As Afiq 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. 

NO FOUL PLAY, SAY POLICE

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.

He was due to be married at the time of his death. 

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.

Staff Sergeant Amirudin said Afiq’s colleagues reported that he was his usual self that day, had not raised any issues, and did not have disputes with anyone.

When State Counsel Chong Yong asked for the police’s conclusions, the investigation officer said that no foul play was involved. 

Coroner Christopher Goh will call an investigation officer from the Ministry of Manpower to the stand when the inquiry continues next month.

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SMRT Bishan Depot death workplace safety coroner's inquiry

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