Just four days after the fatal Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) accident took place, another lorry ferrying workers was involved in a road accident at Upper Bukit Timah Road on Saturday morning (24 Apr), resulting in 10 men being brought to the hospital for treatment.
According to the police, the 35-year-old driver and nine passengers, said to be migrant workers, were rushed to hospital in a conscious state.
On Tuesday morning (20 Apr), a lorry carrying foreign workers to their worksite collided with a stationary tipper truck on PIE. Two workers died in that accident and 15 others were injured.
As for Saturday’s accident, the police said that it was alerted at around 7.20 am of a crash near The Rail Mall.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force said that the injured victims, aged between 26 and 50, were brought to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for treatment.
Based on the photos of the scene, the lorry can be seen lying on its side and several passengers were sitting next to the vehicle.
Police said investigations are ongoing.
Following the second incident which followed the first in such a short span of time, migrant worker advocacy groups have called for the improvement of safety regulations when it comes to transporting foreign workers.
A spokesperson for Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) told The Straits Times: “It is common sense that travelling in the back of a cargo lorry exposes passengers to greater risk of more severe injury in motor accidents.”
“Given that strict road safety rules apply to all other road users, the fact that migrant workers are transported like cargo is inhumane and shameful,” she said, adding that HOME has pushed the issues for years with both the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the public.
Under the Road Traffic Act, employers can opt to use lorries to transport workers between their residences and workplaces.
However, the current safety regulations stipulate that drivers should adhere to the road speed limit or 60 km per hour, whichever is lower.
Workers placed at the carriage deck of lorries should also be “properly seated in a manner that would not cause them to fall off the vehicle”, according to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) One Motoring website.
Regardless of these regulations, many have pointed out that standards could be improved, for instance by making it compulsory for passengers to wear seat belts.
Founder of ItsRainingRaincoats, Dipa Swaminathan, said to ST: “The rest of us have been entitled to the safety of seat belts and there is indisputable evidence that seat belts can save lives… It is therefore unfair that migrant workers do not get such a basic safety feature.”
She went on to note it is important to find a holistic solution that addressed underlying problems for lorry drivers, adding that some are even migrant workers themselves who do not have sufficient rest.
Others pointed out that workers should be transported to work via bus or van instead of lorries.
In 2010, safety rulers were tightened after two accidents occurred, one of which saw migrant workers flung from lorries they were transported in.
In another incident, three Chinese nationals died after the overcrowded lorry they were in skidded and tipped.
This resulted in heavy public debate, prompting the Government to bring forward the deadline for new regulations mandating lorries to install canopies and higher side railings to prevent workers from falling off.
But operational costs by industry stakeholders caused LTA to look into its plans for lorry owners to double the minimum deck space to 8 sq ft for each seated worker.
Then-president of the Singapore Contractors Association, Ho Nyok Yong said 2011 that smaller contractors have to bear the financial burden of purchasing more vehicles or leasing buses to transport workers.
Agreeing with the points raised by migrant worker advocacy groups, netizens said on social media that it is wrong and inhumane to ferry migrant workers on the back of lorries to work, with limited safety measures in place.
Penning their thoughts in TODAY and ST‘s Facebook pages, online users said that it is unacceptable for a First World country to transport humans like their are livestock, calling for an end to this “barbaric way of transporting human beings”.
Others slammed the authorities, saying that they will only take action after more lives are lost in such accidents.
They also went on to add that the LTA and Traffic Police should enforce the law better to ensure workers are being transported in a safe manner without neglecting safety measures.
A number of online users also pointed out that the authorities should ban lorries from ferrying passengers altogether.
They said that these migrant workers deserve to be transported in proper vehicles like vans or buses.
Some online users blamed lorry drivers for causing such accidents due to speeding and reckless driving.
Some of them, however, defended the drivers, explaining that these drivers are pressed for time in ensuring the workers reach the worksite on time.