'I'm worried family will leave me'

They just could not stomach the sight of him after an industrial accident left him with a disfigured face.

Bangladeshi construction worker Shabdar Ali Mongol Khan said his old colleagues have deserted him because of his "scary" looks.

"I felt so humiliated when I found out about this," the 32-year-old said in Bengali through an interpreter recently.

He came to Singapore in October 2011 to provide for his family back home.

Mr Shabdar fears that his family­ - a son and a daughter aged seven and 10 respectively and a 27-year-old wife who is a housewife - may leave him as well.

He said: "How can my family accept me now? They don't know the extent of my injuries. Though I speak to them regularly, I haven't told them about what happened. I'm just worried they might leave me if they knew how I look like now."

He is also afraid that even if they accept him, he will not be able to provide for them in the future.

Previously, Mr Shabdar earned a monthly salary of about $1,400.

"I cannot work any more and there's no one else to feed my family," he lamented.

His troubles started in March last year at a Buona Vista worksite.

He was working with electrical cables when he was hit and dragged down a shaft by falling cables, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) incident report said.

Multiple injuries

Mr Shabdar said he fell the height equivalent to one storey, and the impact resulted in multiple injuries to his head, face and body. He was in a coma for two months, he added.

He only learnt of what happened to him from colleagues when he regained consciousness.

"The only thing I remember was going to work that Sunday and feeling good about myself," Mr Shabdar said..

He added: "I have no recollection of the incident or how I ended up in the hospital. It was only after I woke up that my colleagues told me how badly I was injured.

"My colleagues said nobody saw the accident. They were only alerted when they heard me shouting for help as I fell."

Because of the fall, Mr Shabdar lost the use of his left eye. He fractured his skull, ribs and wrist and received multiple wounds on his face as well.

His nasal bone was also broken, resulting in the loss of smell.

Investigations

An MOM spokesman told The New Paper that investigations into the accident are ongoing.

In the meantime, Mr Shabdar - who now lives in a hostel near Mount Faber - is trying the best he can to carry on with life.

Last year, he had plastic surgery to correct the injuries to his nose and eye sockets.

Showing this reporter a passport picture of himself before the accident, Mr Shabdar said: "Apart from my face looking like this, I can't even eat proper food because I can't open my mouth properly.

"The vision in my right eye is also not very good, I can't read the newspaper because the words are too small for me to see."

Last December, he received another shock - the company he worked for had ceased operations.

The MOM spokesman said Mr Shabdar's employer is still liable for the work injury under the Work Injury Compensation Act.

This includes medical leave wages, medical expenses and permanent incapacity compensation (up to $218,000), which is dependent on the extent of permanent incapacity assessed by his treating doctor upon the stabilisation of his injuries, added the spokesman.

Mr Shabdar now spends his time with his new friends at the shelter.

They provide a distraction from what he has to endure in the future, he said.

"With my injuries, I cannot work so my life is gone," Mr Shabdar said.

"You can have all the money in the world, but that's useless if you're a burden to your family. That's my biggest worry right now."

MOM STEPPING UP ENFORCEMENT

Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, companies failing to ensure workplace safety may be fined up to $500,000 for the first offence.

Individuals can also be fined up to $200,000 and/or imprisoned under the Act, said a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman.

 

Spike

The ministry will also be stepping up enforcement measures in the wake of a spike in construction site deaths.

On Feb 17, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Manpower Hawazi Daipi told Parliament that MOM will review its demerit point system.

Contractors who fail to improve their safety records can be barred from hiring foreign workers.

Details of the review will be announced by the middle of this year.

 

By the numbers

7 - Sites ordered to stop work in the first two weeks of this year

8 - Deaths in January

22 - Construction deaths between July and December last year

45 - Sites fined

69 - Given warning notices

114 - Number of safety breaches found in first two weekes this year at 89 construction firms

$218,000 - The maximum compensation for permanently incapacitated workers under the Work Injury Compensation Act

 

Previous cases

- Bangladeshi construction worker Ahammed Selim lost both his legs at a worksite accident last March after a metal block weighing 150kg crushed his lower body.

- The family of a forklift driver who died of a heart attack received about $132,000 in compensation after the Commissioner of Labour ruled last March that his death occurred during the course of work. Mr Vijayan Supramaniam's work as a forklift driver on board a ship on Dec 23, 2010, was described as stressful, court papers said.

- Bangladeshi construction worker Ismail Asgar Hossain, 29, lost his left leg at a worksite in Ang Mo Kio last March. A part of an escalator ­- which Mr Ismail and his colleagues were removing at the time - became dislodged and fell on him.

 


Get The New Paper for more stories.