Contractor Behind Fatal Accident In Sept 2015, Awarded New Contract In Nov 2015
When people die in construction accidents, it’s natural to point fingers at the contractor behind the project.
But fingers may need to be pointed elsewhere too when a structure along Upper Changi Road East collapsed early on Friday (July 14) and killed a 31-year-old Chinese national.
Or Kim Peow Contractors, the firm in charge of the project, was revealed to have been found guilty under the Workplace Health and Safety Act just 3 days before the collapse — for a previous accident where 1 worker also died. And it was awarded the contract for the Changi structure despite that fatal incident.
Besides the sole fatality, 10 workers were injured in the incident that took place at 3.30am in the morning on Friday.
Officers from the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force rushed to the scene in Upper Changi Road East in the wee hours of the morning, and the injured were taken to Changi General Hospital for treatment.
The cause of the collapse is likely to be human error, The Straits Times quoted a veteran engineer as saying.
Bad Track Record
The shocking incident was reminiscent of another one that took place on Sept 22, 2015 when a platform dislodged under the Yio Chu Kang flyover, sending 4 workers crashing 6.4m to the ground. One died.
The firm that was behind the construction project on the Yio Chu Kang flyover was none other Or Kim Peow Contractors.
The company was fined $250,000 for safety lapses that led to the incident — in a ruling announced on Tuesday (July 11), just 3 days before the Changi structure collapse, The Straits Times reported.
Or Kim Peow Contractors’ holding company, OKP Holdings, has called for a halt in the trading of its shares.
According to a list from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) dated July 3, 2017, Or Kim Peow Contractors was given 25 demerit points and blacklisted from January to April for previous safety lapses.
Some of the safety lapses it was found guilty of with respect to the Yio Chu Kang flyover incident include:
- Failure to ensure that all personnel involved were properly trained
- Failure to construct the working platform as per professional engineer’s design
- Constructing of the working platform despite the lack of supervision
- Failure to display warning labels providing safety details
Mr Chan Yew Kwong, the director of MOM’s Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, was quoted by Human Resources Online as saying:
This is a clear case of a company that does not take workplace safety seriously… MOM will not hesitate to take punitive actions on companies and individuals who knowingly put workers at risk.
Despite being blacklisted, fined and chided, Or Kim Peow was still working on the Changi flyover that collapsed on Friday morning.
Awarded Despite Accident
What’s more damning is that Or Kim Peow was actually awarded the Changi flyover project after the Yio Chu Kang flyover accident happened.
According to Channel NewsAsia, the Changi project has a contract value of more than $94.6 million, and the contract was awarded to Or Kim Peow by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) in November 2015 — that’s 2 months after the Yio Chu Kang flyover fatality.
Did the LTA know about the Yio Chu Kang flyover incident that took the life of one worker?
Or did the LTA just assume that it wasn’t the fault of Or Kim Peow?
Or worse still, does the LTA not take such serious prior incidents into account when deciding which companies to award contracts to?
Netizens immediately questioned why Or Kim Peow was awarded the Changi flyover contract despite its poor safety record.
This led to speculation online over whether Or Kim Peow had ties to government officials.
Some called for the authorities to conduct checks on all existing structures built by Or Kim Peow:
Convenience Or Safety?
It may still be understandable that the LTA may be loath to cancel contracts that have already been awarded to companies when it discovers prior safety lapses that weren’t apparent before, as that would mean a massive delay in the project.
However, it beggars belief that it would award a contract to a company that has already notched up a well-publicised serious accident that resulted in a worker’s death.
Ultimately, it’s up to the public to decide: Should previous safety lapses be ignored if it means a project that brings greater convenience to motorists will get going earlier?
Is motorists’ convenience more important than safety?
If your answer is yes, then beware — the next fatality may be you.