Public Prosecutor v China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co Pte Ltd

CourtMagistrates' Court (Singapore)
JudgeNgoh Siew Yen
Judgment Date01 March 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGMC 1
Citation[2004] SGMC 1
Published date22 April 2004
Plaintiff CounselAbdul Rahman (assisted by Ong Swee Peng)
Defendant CounselSadique Marican (Tito Issac and Co)

1 March 2004

Magistrate Ngoh Siew Yen:

1 On 16 March 2002, a construction worker Wan Jun (‘the deceased’) was found unconscious in the bottom of an uncompleted lift shaft at Block 54 Telok Blangah Heights, Singapore (‘the lift pit’). He subsequently died of an intracranial haemorrhage and cerebral contusions with a fractured skull. Blocks 50 to 57 Telok Blangah Heights were undergoing upgrading works at the material time. Under the Register of Factories, these apartment blocks were registered as a factory in the name of China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co Pte. Ltd. (‘the company’). The Ministry of Manpower hence preferred a charge under s 88(1) of the Factories Act (Cap 104) (‘the Act’) against the company. The charge (‘P1’) reads:

You, China Construction (South Pacific) Development Co Pte Ltd, are charged that you, on or about 16 March 2002, being the occupier of a building operation work site at Telok Blangah Height/Drive, Singapore which was a factory within the meaning of the Factories Act (Cap 104), did in contravention of s 33(3) of the Act, fail to make and keep safe a place at which any person working there, to wit, the lift pit of lift shaft A at Block 54 where one Wan Jun was clearing debris was not made and kept safe to prevent the said Wan Jun from being struck by materials falling into the lift shaft from the upper storey level, and you have thereby committed an offence under s 88(1) of the Act, and being a contravention which was likely to cause the death of the said Wan Jun, is punishable under s 89(2) of the same Act.

At the end of the trial, after hearing evidence and submissions from both sides, I convicted the company of this charge and sentenced it to a fine of $10,000. Being dissatisfied with my decision, the company has appealed against both conviction and sentence.

The Agreed Statement of Facts (‘P2’)

2 The agreed statement of facts (‘P2’) revealed that the deceased was employed by the company as a construction worker to carry out erection of reinforced steel structures and general cleaning at the work site. Prior to his death, the deceased was working under a foreman named Gao Xiao Zhai (‘Gao’) who was in charge of lift structure installation works at Block 54 and 55. Hong Cong Gui and Sun Shuming were two construction carpenters in the same group who also reported to Gao.

3 On 16 March 2002, the deceased was in the lift pit of lift shaft A at Block 54. He was struck by a vertical timber piece which fell down nine stories through a lift shaft opening into the lift pit. The accident occurred when Hong Cong Gui, who was assigned by Gao to dismantle formwork near the 9th storey lift shaft opening, inadvertently allowed the timber piece to fall into the lift pit. This vertical timber piece measured 237.5 cm x 10 cm x 4.5 cm and was part of a structure which supported the timber formwork for the wet joints at the 9th storey lift lobby. It was not disputed that at the time of the accident, the lift shaft opening at the 9th storey lift lobby where Hong Cong Gui was dismantling formwork was not fenced or covered. Neither was an overhead lift shelter erected inside the lift shaft to protect the deceased from being struck by any object that might have fallen into the lift shaft.

4 After the accident, the lift shaft opening was fenced up using a piece of plywood that was nailed to the wall. The lift shaft opening was 2.34 m high and 1.3 m wide.

Other Prosecution’s Exhibits

5 The conditioned statement of the senior photographer from the Occupational Safety Department of the Ministry of Manpower, Mr Leong Sai Chue was admitted as ‘P4’. The photographs of the work site which were taken by Mr Leong on 18 March 2002 were admitted and marked as ‘P3’.

The Case for the Prosecution

6 The prosecution called a total of five witnesses to the stand. These did not include the foreman Gao who had been repatriated back to China before proceedings were initiated. As would be apparent subsequently, Gao’s absence caused a certain degree of difficulty in the prosecution’s case. The evidence of the prosecution witnesses are set out below.

Testimony of PW1 Hong Cong Gui (‘Hong’)

7 Hong, a Chinese national, was employed by China Construction as a construction carpenter at its Telok Blangah work site. On 16 March 2002, the foreman Gao instructed him and Sun Shuming to dismantle the wet joints formwork at the lift lobby of Blk 54 lift shaft A. Hong was responsible for the wet joints formwork at lift shaft A whereas Sun was working a little further away from him. Each part of the wet joints formwork is made up of one piece of wood and another piece of metal and supported in place by vertical and horizontal metal props (P3 photo 3). The pair began work at about 11am, moving progressively from the 7th storey to the 12th storey. At each floor, Hong would dismantle the formwork by first removing the two vertical metal props, followed by the top and then the bottom horizontal metal props. After all the metal props had been removed, Hong would begin to remove the horizontal timber piece at the top (indicated as X at P3 photo 3). According to Hong, as the wet joint formwork was constructed by another company, he would not be aware if each timber piece had been securely fastened to the metal piece or other parts of the formwork. It was possible that the previous contractor, in a bid to save on time and costs, had failed to securely nail the timber pieces to the formwork and had instead allowed the timber pieces to be solely supported by the vertical and horizontal metal props. If so, once the metal props were removed, the timber pieces would also be in danger of falling off.

8 Hong said that he had some experience in the dismantling of formwork, having done this for more than 20 days in the last three years in which he had been working in Singapore. In addition to the Telok Blangah work site, he had dismantled formwork in other construction sites. Hong also testified that as no formal instructions was given as to the dismantling of formwork, he had developed a method based upon his own judgement and experience.

9 Hong then described the safety features on each storey of Blk 54. He testified that on each storey, there would be a safety door at the end of the corridor (‘hoarding’). In order to gain access into the corridor and to the lift lobby, the hoarding would have to be unlocked. Hong also referred to P3 and stated that on each level, a large piece of plywood was placed at the lift shaft opening to prevent persons from falling into the lift shaft (‘plywood barricade’). On 16 March 2002, he had borrowed the keys in order to unlock the hoarding and to commence work. When he entered the corridor on the 9th storey, Hong observed that the plywood barricade was missing. He did not inform anyone about this and commenced dismantling works near the lift shaft opening.

10 As was his usual practice, Hong removed the first and then the second vertical metal prop. While he was dismantling the first vertical metal prop, he noticed that the top horizontal timber piece was intact and supported by the second vertical metal prop. However while he was dismantling the second vertical metal prop, Hong saw this horizontal timber piece gradually slipping off. Hong shouted out to his colleague Sun, who was working a little distance away, to come over and to hold onto this horizontal timber piece while he continued dismantling the second vertical metal prop. Once the second vertical metal prop was completely removed, the horizontal timber piece dropped by itself as it was not nailed to the rest of the formwork. Sun then returned to his own work which was about 1.6m away from Hong.

11 Hong continued with the dismantling of the horizontal metal props supporting the formwork. As he worked on the last horizontal metal prop, Hong did not notice that the vertical timber piece on his left was gradually sliding down. When the last horizontal metal prop was fully removed, the left vertical timber piece suddenly fell into the lift shaft opening. Hong said that he was in shock and was unable to react initially. After he recovered himself, Hong ran to the lift shaft opening and looked down. The vertical timber piece knocked against the walls of the lift shaft several time before dropping straight and level into the shaft. Hong said that although it was dim inside the lift shaft, he believed that he saw someone working below. He shouted out to Sun that a timber piece had dropped into the lift shaft, grabbed his colleague and ran down to save the person in the lift pit.

12 When Hong reached the ground level, he informed one of the other foreman to call for an ambulance while Sun, Gao and himself rushed into the lift pit. They were the first to reach the scene. Hong stated that they had no difficulty in getting to the lift pit as there was no obstruction, save that he had to pick up a piece of wooden formwork to get down into the lift pit which was below ground level. Between the three of them, they managed to pull the deceased out of the lift pit and eventually onto the ambulance to be conveyed to the hospital. A police man also arrived at the scene. Hong said that he was subsequently instructed by his safety officer to insert a plywood barricade on the 9th storey lift shaft opening. Lastly, Hong testified that he was unaware that someone was working in the lift pit as there were no signs on the 7th to the 9th storey so indicating. Neither did he hear any sounds emanating from the lift pit from where he worked.

Testimony of PW2 Staff Sergeant Tan Koon Liang (‘SSgt Tan’)

13 SSgt Tan is the Investigative Office in charge of the case. He testified that on 16 March 2002 at about 4.45 pm, he was informed of an industrial accident which occurred at Blk 54 Telok Blangah Heights. He arrived at the work site about 30 minutes later with a police photographer, one Sergeant Lee Chee Kong to investigate and to take photographs of the scene. This was...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT