SINGAPORE: A foreign worker who has worked in Singapore for over 10 years stepped through a sign in a workplace, fell 4.7 meters into the basement of Shaw Plaza, and later died of his injuries.
A coroner on Thursday (December 3) ruled that the death of 30-year-old Indian citizen Ramakrishnan Ravichandran was an unfortunate work accident and noted that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) is considering taking action against the company of the deceased and the occupier of the building on Balestier Road.
Mr. Ravichandran had cleared out disassembled electrical fixtures in the building on November 14 last year as part of his work with several other workers when he stepped through a drywall covering the sides of an escalator pit.
Before that, workers had tossed debris and dismantled the building’s second-floor electrical wiring in the first-floor well.
The drywall, or drywall, was not designed to support anyone’s weight, Coroner Prem Raj said. It was also covered with concrete dust from other works and was indistinguishable from the concrete beams or other fixtures.
Mr. Ravichandran fell 4.7 m and landed on the floor of the cellar. He was later taken to hospital, but resuscitation efforts failed after he suffered cardiac arrest, and he was pronounced dead that morning.
An autopsy revealed that he had died of multiple injuries, including fractures of the skull, ribs and sternum, or sternum.
The court heard that a safety briefing had been held that morning by the safety supervisor employed by Express 21, including a reminder not to go to unsafe areas and wear equipment such as a helmet at all times.
Mr. Ravichandran, along with two other men, was tasked with doing the housework, clearing and cutting electrical cables and removing electrical lines.
They threw the second floor debris into the first floor escalator pit and later went into the pit to clear the items.
While the work was going on, one of the workers clearing the debris in the pit heard “a loud noise like the breaking of a wooden plank.” He looked up to see a hole in the well and warned the rest that Mr. Ravichandran had fallen.
They went to the basement and saw Mr. Ravichandran’s motionless body lying face down on the floor. He was later taken to hospital without further ado without a pulse and pronounced dead later that morning.
The High Commission of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were notified of the death later that day, and MOM conducted an investigation.
The probe revealed that the level 1 pit had previously housed the escalator and motor, but these were removed in late October 2019. To prevent workers from falling into the pit, the building user had barricades installed, but not one -identified person later removed the front barricade and replaced it with nets.
Mr. Ravichandran likely had the net removed to access the well to remove electrical fixtures, the coroner said.
Four drywall – which are used as partitions and lining of walls and the like, but cannot withstand the weight of a person – covered a void to the right of the well. The planks were separated from the pit by a concrete beam.
However, due to previous cutting and demolition work near the pit, the area was covered with a layer of concrete dust so that the concrete beam and planks looked the same.
When Mr. Ravichandran stepped on one of the planks at the side of the well, it broke and ended up in six pieces on the basement floor that were found along with his helmet.
A summary of his working hours in the three months prior to his death did not indicate that he had worked inordinately many hours, and he appeared normal during the meeting before the works began, eliminating work fatigue as a contributor to the fall.
An evaluation found that no one was aware of the presence of the signs and the hazards they posed, and Express 21 had not established safe working practices for household tasks.
MOM found that such sensitive surfaces are often found in such workplaces and that falling is considered a foreseeable risk.
The Department is currently considering taking action against Express 21 and the building’s occupant under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
The coroner echoed two points from the Workplace Safety and Heath Council in an accident bulletin issued after Mr Ravichandran’s death.
Floor openings should be safely covered by concrete slabs or metal gratings where possible. If it is unavoidable to use sensitive surfaces such as drywall, the areas should be marked with clear signs and delimited to prevent workers from entering the danger area and stepping on any of the surfaces.
The coroner added that there should be good communication before work begins, in the form of a pre-work briefing highlighting the hazards at the site and how to safely perform the work.
He expressed his deepest condolences to Mr Ravichandran’s family, who were unable to attend the hearing due to their very tragic loss.