16 weeks' jail for site supervisor who coerced worker to take blame for fatal workplace accident

SINGAPORE: A site supervisor for construction company ZAP Piling was sentenced to a total of 16 week’ imprisonment for offences related to a fatal workplace incident on Jun 9, 2016, a press release from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Saturday (Apr 13).

Tay Tong Chuan was sentenced to eight weeks’ jail  under the Penal Code for intentionally obstructing the course of justice by asking a worker to take the blame for the fatal incident. He was also given another eight week’s jail under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for instructing his worker to carry out lifting operations involving a crawler crane without a permit-to-work and a lifting plan.

The company, ZAP Pilings,was convicted on May 3, 2018 for an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for the same accident and was fined S$290,000.

The victim, Arumugam Elango, was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple injuries in the incident that took place at a machine storage yard located at 6 Kranji Link.

He died after he was pinned against the tracks of a piling machine by piling casings weighing 1.76 tonnes each. The casings had toppled off a stack that was struck by a boring bucket being lifted by a crane.

2 (Source: Manpower Ministry)

According to MOM, Tay and the company’s plant manager decided to persuade a worker named Mamun to accept the blame for the accident. 

Mr Mamun and another worker, Sumon A B M, were called into the store area where Tay coached him to say that the excavator he was in control of had touched the casings, causing the casings to collapse to the ground and hit Arumugam, MOM said.

Mr Mamun refused to take the blame for the accident and covertly recorded the conversation with Tay and the plant manager on his mobile phone, MOM added.

When Mr Mamun was informed that he would be charged for doing a negligent act which endangered the safety of others, he then provided the recording to MOM investigators.

He did not hand over the recording earlier as he was afraid that his recording would be kept and never presented in court. The charge against Mr Mamun was eventually withdrawn.

Providing details of the case in its press release, MOM said: “Tay and the company’s plant manager, knowing that the accident would be investigated by the relevant authorities, intended to obstruct the course of justice by shifting the blame for the accident to Mamun. 

“Tay had neither witnessed the accident nor reasonably believed that Mamun was responsible for the accident. By asking Mamun to accept the blame for the accident, Tay had abetted the offence of intentionally obstructing the course of justice. As a result of the company’s plant manager’s instigation, Sumon, who was afraid of losing his job, also made false statements against Mamun.”

Capture (Source: Manpower Ministry)

Mr Sebastian Tan, the ministry’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate said: “Tay, as the site supervisor, not only failed to ensure a safe working environment for his workers during the lifting operation but took advantage of his supervisory position to attempt to pervert the course of justice. 

“MOM takes a very serious view on this and will press for custodial sentences against those who put their workers at risk and attempt to obstruct the course of justice.”