ITE lecturer injured after grease trap cover collapses; coffee shop owner refuses to take responsibility

SINGAPORE - A lecturer was walking past a coffee shop at Jurong East when a grease trap cover suddenly collapsed, plunging him into the grease trap and injuring him in the process.

Mr Albert Wong, who is currently teaching at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), was with his wife when the incident happened on Sunday (Jan 10).

They had just sent their daughter for tuition and were walking past the coffee shop at Block 130 Jurong East.

In an interview with Lianhe Wanbao, the 56-year-old lecturer said that as there was nothing amiss when he was walking over the grease trap cover, he did not bother to make a detour.

As he was walking over it, the cover suddenly gave way and Mr Wong's left foot was caught in the manhole.

"I was momentarily stunned, and only managed to regain my senses awhile later," the ITE lecturer told the Chinese evening daily.

Mr Wong suffered numerous bruises and cuts on his leg from the fall.

After climbing out from the hole on his own as his wife did not have the strength to pull him out, Mr Wong confronted the coffee shop owner.

However, the latter denied responsibility, claiming that grease trap was located outside the coffee shop, and was therefore under the purview of the Town Council.

Mr Wong immediately contacted the Town Council through the police, but was told that the grease trap was located within the coffee shop's premises, and was therefore their responsibility.

Expressing his displeasure, Mr Wong said: "It doesn't matter who is responsible. What is more important is that the cover is fixed.

"I may be lucky because I am not badly hurt this time. But what if a child fell inside and died?"

A town council spokesman told Lianhe Wanbao that the National Environment Agency (NEA) requires that all coffee shops have grease traps to prevent pollution due to cooking oil flowing into drains.

"The grease traps may be built on land managed by the town council, but the maintenance of the grease traps still falls on the coffee shop owners."

The spokesman emphasised that the town council will notify the coffee shop owners of any damages to the grease traps, but the responsibility of fixing it still lies with them.

Noting the quandary, the manager of the coffee shop, Mr Chen, told Lianhe Wanbao: "It is a grey area."

"It is unlikely we will compensate every passerby who gets injured because of the grease trap cover. We are in a predicament over the actual responsibility of the space," the 41-year-old manager added.

It is a different matter for coffee shop patrons, Mr Chen clarified, adding that there would be compensation if his boss agrees.

Mr Chen added that he has hired workers to fix the manhole cover on Monday at 4pm.

Mr Wong said that despite not hearing any word from the coffee shop owner, he will not be pursuing the matter further.