SINGAPORE - For about five seconds Wednesday, the air around Palawan Beach in Sentosa was filled with the sound of falling metal.
Part of the formwork at the construction site of a family entertainment centre had collapsed at about 3.10pm.
Eleven construction workers, who were doing cement casting on top of the formwork structure of a beam, were injured falling from the three-storey structure.
The full length of the beam, which was to eventually support the roof slab, is 78m. The portion that collapsed was 18m-long.
One of the workers later died at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).
A sales assistant at a nearby 7-Eleven kiosk said that he heard a series of crashing sounds before he saw about 20 workers running out from the site, looking scared.
"I could hear them shouting. Three to five workers on the section of the beam that was still intact rushed towards the collapsed area to check on their friends," he said.
Project director Poh Hua Nong of construction company Debenho said the formwork was a few days old.
He said he could not comment on what might have caused the incident as it was under investigation.
But the collapse had not affected any structural elements, Mr Poh said.
A cable worker at the site who gave his name as Mr Nathan, 39, said there were 40 to 50 people working in the area.
He estimated that most of the injured were Chinese nationals, though there were also Indian and Bangladeshi workers at the site.
A Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) spokesman said it sent a fire engine, a Red Rhino vehicle, six ambulances and five support vehicles.
The New Paper understands that three to four lifeguards were involved in rescue efforts at the accident site.
They were seen using an automated external defibrillator on a worker.
The 36-year-old had apparently suffered a cardiac arrest and later died at SGH. A police spokesman said they are investigating the unnatural death.
ACTIVATED TO HELP
A Sentosa Development Corporation spokesman said Sentosa rangers and beach patrol officers had been immediately activated to provide help. She said the beach tram service in the area was diverted as a result of the accident.
It is believed that it was initially not known how many workers had been injured or missing.
An SCDF team entered the accident site, which has an area of 30m by 30m, to search for victims. Wearing protective gear and carrying shovels, they waded into knee-deep wet cement.
Reinforcement arrived in the form of the SCDF Dart team, which also waded into the cement which was quickly hardening.
TNP understands that because of the hardening cement, they had to use an excavator belonging to the construction company to search for victims between 5pm and 6.45pm.
The search was called off only when all the workers had been accounted for. TNP understands that no workers were trapped.
The casualties were taken to SGH.
One of the casualties was placed in a high dependency ward, eight others were in general wards and another has been discharged.
The deceased person was not registered at the hospital, an SGH spokesman said.
A Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said officers from its Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate responded immediately and were on site to investigate the accident.
Preliminary investigations showed the formwork structure had collapsed while concrete was being poured into it, the spokesman said.
He said that investigations are ongoing and MOM has instructed the occupier to stop all work at the site.
The $30 million project for a family entertainment centre started on March 18 last year, said Mr Kwoh Kok Kiong, Sentosa Leisure Group's planning and development director.
The portion which had collapsed was meant to house KidZania, an indoor "edu-tainment" centre for children.
KidZania was to be on the ground and mezzanine floors, with landscaping on the third floor of the building, he said.
The project, which has a land area of 15,000 sq m, is scheduled to be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.
BY THE NUMBERS
9 dead, 12 injured in at least 6 worksite accidents since the start of the year
Spate of accidents 'appalling', says minister
Calling the recent spate of workplace accidents "appalling", Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said in a blog post Wednesday afternoon that his ministry will not hesitate to take action against those who flout the rules.
When he found out about the accident in Sentosa later, he posted an update saying that he was appalled that there had been another incident involving formwork.
Formwork is when moulds are built at construction sites and concrete is poured into them, forming parts of the foundation or building.
"Construction companies must recognise that work on projects bid for must be done, but done responsibly as lives are at stake," he wrote.
He vowed "strong actions" to address these incidents, adding that errant contractors will face harsh penalties under the law, including imprisonment.
Mr Tan said that in discussions with officers from the Occupational Safety and Health Division, it was revealed that many such incidents could have been prevented.
Last week, MOM also stepped up inspections, visiting 48 sites.
Four of these sites did not comply with safety regulations and have been issued stop-work notices until they can improve safety, the minister wrote.
He also said that the ministry is working with those in the industry to see how the process of formwork can be made safer.
'What? Another one?'
That was the immediate reaction of Ang Mo Kio GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Yeo Guat Kwang when told of Wednesday's worksite accident at Sentosa's Palawan Beach.
Just two days earlier, Mr Yeo, who is also NTUC's director of workplace safety and health, had issued a statement of concern after the recent spate of workplace accidents.
"I feel sad that so close to Chinese New Year, we have such bad news.
"So many of these cases are preventable if employers can do the right thing," he told The New Paper over the phone Wednesday.
Mr Yeo said that it is the employer's responsibility to ensure workers get home safe to their families at the end of the day.
Now that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has been stepping up enforcement efforts, he said it would help in ensuring worksites have a certain level of safety.
"Hopefully the investigations (into the workplace accidents) can conclude earlier so we can look into the cases and see what can be done to improve the situation," he said.
Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, shared similar sentiments.
"It's important for MOM to conduct a thorough investigation into each of the cases so we can look at the cases and decide the best way to go forward," he said.
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