Saturday, 30 September 2023

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BCA blames broken parapet wall as cause of high-rise gondola incident last month

SINGAPORE — On the morning of 11 May, two workers had a close call while cleaning the exterior walls of Blk 199 Boon Lay Drive in Singapore.

The top wall suddenly collapsed, causing the gondola they were in to tilt and leaving them stranded in mid-air.

Fortunately, residents from two units on the 14th and 15th floors allowed the workers to climb into their windows for safety.

The workers were contracted for repair and redecoration work on the affected block and nearby blocks. Both of them sustained minor injuries and were sent to the hospital for treatment. They were discharged later and provided with medical leave.

Last month, a West Coast Town Council (WCTC) spokesperson informed the Straits Times that the gondola’s support system, installed by the contractor on the roof, had failed, resulting in the gondola tilting.

However, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) has inspected the building and confirmed its structural safety, and the area has been cordoned off.

On Friday (2 June), the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) revealed preliminary investigations, which confirmed that the overhead support of the gondola came loose when the parapet wall on top of the HDB block was damaged.

BCA engineers found only localized damage on the block and confirmed that the building remains structurally safe.

Three workplace accidents involving gondolas from last year till today

According to The Straits Times, the Ministry of Manpower said gondolas, also known as suspended scaffolds, are commonly used as temporary work platforms for workers to carry out tasks at heights on the exterior of buildings.

Currently, there are approximately 5,000 gondolas in use. The Ministry reported two workplace accidents involving gondolas in 2022 and one in 2023.

“There were two workplace accidents involving the use of gondolas in 2022, and one in 2023 to date,” it added.

HDB stated that any work involving the use of gondolas on HDB buildings must comply with the Workplace Safety and Health (Scaffolds) Regulations.

“For example, the gondola anchorage systems must be designed by a professional engineer (PE) who is required to conduct loading checks to ensure that the supporting structure can bear the weight of a gondola.”

“The PE is then required to inspect and ensure that the gondola system is erected and installed in accordance with this design, and that it has been properly anchored to the building before use,” added HDB.

The Singapore Contractors Association Ltd (SCAL) Academy spokesperson stated that workers operating gondolas must attend a specific course for suspended scaffolds, in addition to a construction workplace safety and health course.

They must also wear basic personal protective equipment such as safety harnesses, helmets, and safety shoes. The gondolas need to be inspected by a professional engineer at least once every six months.

Before distribution to construction companies, gondolas undergo assessments by multiple engineers to ensure their structure and safety.

Residents were told the block would be selected for en bloc

The exterior of the HDB flat can be seen covered with algae.

A resident whom TOC spoke with last month, shared that many neighbours complained the interior of their houses also has a lot of cracks and leaky.

She also added that the residents were earlier told that the block would be selected for en bloc after they had complained about the conditions of their flat when Lawrence Wong was the MP for the ward.

However, there has been no further update on this matter so far.

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