SINGAPORE: A container stacker machine operator was listening to music and driving when he lowered a container that crushed a man in 2021.
The inquiry into Mr Teo Ser Kiong’s death opened on Tuesday (Feb 7). He died aged 49 on Oct 1, 2021, after being crushed by a 20-foot container at a construction site at 15 Pioneer Crescent.
Investigators from the police and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) took the stand to detail their report findings.
The court heard that Mr Teo, who worked for Allied Container (Engineers and Manufacturers), was at the work site with colleagues, including the machine operator, Mr Arumugam Ganesan.
Mr Teo was holding a stack of papers checking containers for damage when Mr Ganesan, 42, operated the container stacker machine to shift a container.
He picked up the container from the second level and lifted it to the third level, before driving to another location.
While driving, he lowered the container to its intended location at the same time.
Mr Teo was standing in front of the machine, and Mr Ganesan continued to drive forward. The machine struck Mr Teo without Mr Ganesan realising.
He realised something was wrong only when he used the machine to place the container on the ground and found that the container could not be lowered completely, as if there was an obstruction.
Mr Ganesan lifted the container again and checked underneath to see Mr Teo on the floor.
He immediately alerted his supervisor, and the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force were called to the scene.
Mr Teo was found lying face up, and paramedics declared him dead at the scene.
According to Mr Ganesan, he was listening to music at the time of the incident. The music came from a radio placed on top of the stacking machine, and he was not using his phone.
However, Mr Ganesan admitted that his line of sight was obstructed due to the lowering of the container while he was driving the machine forward.
An autopsy found Mr Teo’s cause of death to be multiple injuries including several fractures.
Police do not suspect any foul play in the case.
The court heard that Mr Teo was a very hardworking worker, with no disputes or unhappiness with anyone at work.
WORKPLACE SAFETY BREACHES
According to the investigating officers, Mr Teo being at the location at the time was a breach of workplace safety procedures.
He should have informed the depot manager that he was going to be present, and obtained authorisation from the manager.
The manager would then inform the stacker who was on location to stop operations. Mr Teo was supposed to enter only after receiving confirmation from the depot manager.
In other words, when stackers are operating in the yard, no one else should be walking around at the same time, the coroner said.
Mr Ganesan was driving the machine forward and lowering it at the same time, which he was not supposed to do, said the MOM investigator.
The operator’s view is to remain clear at all times, and if his view is blocked, there should be no movement by the machine, he said.
When the stacker is being operated vertically, the vehicle should be in a stationary position.
The MOM investigator said the ministry is contemplating taking action against “the party involved”, under the Workplace Safety and Health Act.
He did not specify who this party was, and declined comment when approached after the hearing.
Previous reports state that a 42-year-old man was arrested for a rash act causing death after the incident.
Mr Teo was the 30th workplace fatality for 2021, MOM said at the time.
The hearing was attended by Mr Teo’s widow, who wiped away tears during the inquiry, as well as Mr Teo’s niece.
Findings will be issued at a later date.