SMRT fined S$400,000 for safety lapses in Pasir Ris accident

Infographic released by SMRT explaining the fatal accident along the East-West Line on 22 March (Source : SMRT).

Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) Trains was fined S$400,000 on Tuesday (28 February) for safety lapses leading to an incident where two of its trainees were hit by an oncoming train last year.

The two trainees are Nasrulhudin Najumudin, 26, and Muhammad Asyraf Ahmad Buhari, 24, who had earlier joined SMRT in January 2016. They were undergoing on-the-job training when they were hit by an oncoming train. Permission to access the tracks was authorised.

There were 15 employees in the team who went on track to investigate a possible fault involving a signalling device on the tracks. Mr Lim Say Heng, 47, who was the first in line, managed to escape on time when the train approached. However, Nasrulhudin and Asyraf, who were on the second and third in line failed to react on time.

Although stating that the staff followed its standard procedure at the beginning, SMRT later admitted after the accident that maintenance staff had not followed safety procedures.

SMRT was charged under Section 12 of the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The Act states that it is the duty of every employer to take measures necessary to ensure the safety and health of employees at work so far as is reasonably practicable.

The charge sheet wrote that the company had failed to ensure that its employees complied with approved operating procedures when accessing the track, as well as the procedures practised by staff that day to access the tracks passed safety audits, were documented and disseminated.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Anandan Bala stated during the Court today that these were “systemic and prolonged” breaches, noting that this is not a one-off incident.

He stressed that the breach was committed by workmen on the ground and station managers with approval from Operations Control Centre.

The prosecution said that even though SMRT had taken remedial measures post-incident, these measures are not difficult to implement and should have been in place years ago.

Representing the rail operator, Senior Counsel Andre Maniam, argued that the actions taken on the ground were not approved or authorised by SMRT senior management.

District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt said that it was highly disconcerting that the failures were systemic and had occurred on many levels in delivering the sentences.

He stressed that the procedures on the ground had evolved over time in a “haphazard fashion” despite safety protocols in place.

He said that employees were left to adopt whatever practice they deemed convenient,saying, “Official safety protocols on paper were either unknown to employees or completely disregarded.”

Two others have also been charged.

Teo Wee Kiat, 40, one of SMRT’s directors, was also charged under Section 48 (1) of the same Act. The Act states that should an offence be committed by a corporate body, an officer of this body shall be guilty of the offence and be liable to be punished. Teo faces a fine of up to $200,000 and/or a jail term of up to two years

While, Mr Lim was charged with causing death by a negligent act under the Penal Code. He is the officer-in-charge of the work party which was inspecting the tracks on the day of the fatal accident.

According to the charge sheet, he failed to ensure that the necessary safety measures were in place to make sure trains do not enter the train track while they were there. He faces a jail term of up to two years, a fine, or both, if found guilty.

Lim was dismissed last September due to the accident, according to Channel News Asia. On September, the public transport operator also dismissed two of its staff including the train driver, Rahmat Mohd, 49.

The National Transport Workers’ Union Executive Secretary Melvin Yong said the union would support Mr Lim and his family and ensure that he was fairly represented.

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