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SMRT charged over fatal accident

SINGAPORE — After sacking employees it deemed responsible for a fatal accident earlier this year, SMRT Trains yesterday found itself in the dock for alleged safety lapses linked to the incident.

SCDF officers extricate a body from the scene of a train accident on March 22, 2016. TODAY file photo

SCDF officers extricate a body from the scene of a train accident on March 22, 2016. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — After sacking employees it deemed responsible for a fatal accident earlier this year, SMRT Trains yesterday found itself in the dock for alleged safety lapses linked to the incident.

A director and a former assistant engineer — who was dismissed by the company for his role in the episode — were also charged, as investigations continue to determine if more individuals should be hauled to court. SMRT Trains and its director of control operations, Teo Wee Kiat, who is still employed by the company, were charged with failing to take necessary measures to ensure workers’ safety under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA). Lim Say Heng, who was in charge of the work team that went onto the tracks that fateful day, was charged with causing death by a negligent act under the Penal Code.

If convicted, SMRT Trains could be fined a maximum S$500,000, while Teo could be jailed for up to two years and/or fined up to S$200,000. Lim faces up to two years’ jail, or a fine or both, if found guilty.

SMRT trainees Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, and Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, were killed on the morning of March 22 by an oncoming train travelling between Tampines and Pasir Ris MRT stations. They were part of a team of 15 that went onto the tracks to check on a warning signal from a monitoring device.

In a statement yesterday, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said: “Investigations are still ongoing to determine if any other individuals may be liable for workplace safety lapses in connection with the tragic incident.”

Responding to queries, the Land Transport Authority said it has completed its investigations into the incident, and would release its findings “at an appropriate juncture”.

Charge sheets state that SMRT Trains and Teo, 40, failed to ensure that employees complied with the approved operating procedures when accessing the train track during office hours. They are also accused of failing to ensure that the employee’s actions passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

Lim, 47, is accused of failing to ensure that necessary safety measures were in place to ensure that trains would not enter the train track, before carrying out the assessment.

This led to the train colliding into Muhammad Asyraf and Nasrulhudin, “causing them to suffer multiple injuries which led to their deaths”, the charge sheet stated.

The cases have been adjourned to Dec 30 for a pre-trial conference. SMRT Trains is represented by lawyers from WongPartnership, Teo by lawyers from Drew and Napier, and Lim by Mr S S Dhillon.

Contacted yesterday, Nasrulhudin’s older brother Nasri Najumudin declined to comment on the charges filed. The 33-year-old added that his family was awaiting the start of the Coroner’s Inquiry into the deaths, which could take place by the end of this year.

After an internal investigation, SMRT said in April that failure to follow safety measures had led to the accident. Among the lapses were not deploying watchmen to look out for and warn of approaching trains, and not setting a speed limit on the affected track sector to prevent trains on automated mode from entering.

In September, it was revealed that, after an internal disciplinary inquiry, the company had sacked two employees in connection with the accident: Lim and Mr Rahmat Mohd, the driver of the train that hit the two men.

When asked if the company had taken further disciplinary action against other employees, SMRT Head of Corporate Marketing & Communications Margaret Teo said: “As the matter is before the courts, we have no further comments to make.”

According to Ministry of Manpower figures, 36 employers and workplaces were convicted in 2014 under the WSHA, and 35 last year. This year, there have been 22 convictions as of the end of September. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SIAU MING EN

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