Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Safety breached in Bugis DTL horror: Experts

The two workers killed in a scaffolding collapse in last Thursday's construction accident should not have been under the scaffolding in the first place, said the Institute of Engineers, Singapore (IES) in a statement yesterday.

The institute was responding to the Bugis Downtown Line (DTL) accident.

The two workers, both Chinese nationals, were checking for cement leaks under a scaffolding when it collapsed at around 6.50am, said the Land Transport Authority. The scaffolding was supporting formwork - a term for moulds into which concrete is poured.

Eight other workers, who had been pouring concrete on top of the scaffolding, were injured.

The workers were casting a roof for a linkway between the DTL Bugis Station and the existing one.

IES vice-president Chong Kee Sen said: "As a good safety practice, supervisors should not allow workers to be positioned under the formwork structures during concreting."

He also said that "properly designed and installed" formwork structures would reduce the likelihood of cement leaking from under the formwork, "negating the need" for workers to check for leakages underneath.

Mr Chong said that formwork and the supporting scaffolding structure must be "designed to adequately withstand the load and take into account the additional pressure genera--ted when concreting work is carried out."

The statement added: "It is imperative for such structures to be installed in accordance with the design.

"To do this, a competent engineer should check the installation before concreting work begins.
"The process of pouring concrete should also be supervised."

Engineering professor Fan Sau Cheong from the Nanyang Technological University told my paper that he agrees with the IES, but revealed that workers often carry out work under scaffolding.

He said: "It is common practice for workers to be under the scaffolding to check for leaks during the pouring of concrete.

"Prof Fan added that formwork rarely leaks and that the workers would not have been in any danger if the scaffolding and formwork were "properly designed.

"The formwork was definitely overloaded and the scaffolding had not been properly checked," he said.

He added that there are no rules to prohibit workers from working under formwork structures. The Ministry of Manpower has not yet lifted a stop-work order at the site.

The Building and Construction Authority revoked the construction permit for the site while investigations are underway.

The ministry said that Koh Brothers, the main contractor for the construction, has a previously reported accident related to a scaffolding collapse on file.

The accident happened in 1998 during the construction of Sun Plaza. An Indian-national worker was killed.

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