Employer fined $100k after worker was electrocuted while fixing a motor

SINGAPORE – While he was replacing the motor of a roller shutter, an electrician was electrocuted, fell off a ladder and died about an hour later in hospital.

Following Mr Tong Baorong’s death, his employer Lee Ee Ten was found to have failed to conduct risk assessment properly and implement measures and safe work procedure to minimise and control risks.

The 65-year-old Singaporean, who had also failed to ensure her workers had adequate instructions, information and training, was fined $100,000 on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to a charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

If she fails to pay the fine, she will be jailed for three months.

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) prosecutor Maximilian Chew said in court documents that on Nov 7, 2019, Lee deployed Mr Tong, another electrician and a general worker to replace the motor of a roller shutter at Tritech Building at 31 Changi South Avenue 2.

Construction company Presscrete Engineering had engaged Tan Kim Seng Roller Shutters, where Lee was a partner, to carry out the work.

After the three workers arrived at the building at about 9.30am, Mr Tong climbed up a ladder that was placed at an angle against the frame of the roller shutter to turn off the isolator of the shutter’s motor.

He began replacing the motor that was about 5.6m above the ground, while his two colleagues held the ladder and passed him the replacement motor.

At about 9.40am, Mr Tong successfully mounted the replacement motor and connected it to the isolator.

When he turned on the isolator, the motor’s metal frame and all conductive materials that were in contact with it, including the ladder, became live immediately as the frame was connected to the live terminal of the main electricity supply.

“Instantly, Tong fell off the ladder and landed face down on the ground,” said Mr Chew.

Mr Tong was taken to Changi General Hospital where he died at about 10.40am. The cause of death was certified as electrocution with multiple injuries.

Mr Chew said Mr Tong did not open the isolator cover to check the wiring configuration and assumed the electricity supply from the isolator was single-phase when it was in fact three-phase.

Based on this incorrect assumption, Mr Tong connected the replacement motor to the isolator and the switch for the main electricity supply was turned on at that time.

Mr Chew said Lee had failed in her duty as the employer of the three workers to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure their safety and health.