'What if someone had been walking by?'

SINGAPORE - His morning routine was disrupted when a worker fell to his death at a construction site at the junction of Sims Drive and Aljunied Road on Wednesday.

The witness, who only wanted to be known as Mr Haffan, said: "It was 9.30am when it happened and he was around 9m high when he fell."

Mr Haffan, 32, who works as a scaffolding supervisor at a different construction site directly opposite the accident site, said that the worker, a Chinese national, was standing on a cast which was being used to make a concrete column. It was about 4m long and made of wood, metal and concrete.

He said: "After the crane lowered the cast on the edge of the building, the worker climbed onto the top of the cast to detach the hook from it."

Lost balance

He said that the worker was holding on to the metal bars which would form the inside of the concrete column when it fell.

"He suddenly lost his balance and then he fell straight onto the pavement," said Mr Haffan.

"The column itself fell straight onto the metal hoarding surrounding the construction site, there was a loud sound and the wooden pieces of the cast all broke up."

Mr Haffan said that after the worker fell, he moved towards the scene and what he saw horrified him.

"He was lying motionless face down, with his right arm straight beside his body and his left arm raised to the side of his head.

"I also felt a bit sad because although I did not know him, I saw him around with his colleagues. Now he is dead," he said.

Mrs Suzie Saravanan was waiting for her bus at a bus stop about 100m away from the accident site.

"After I heard the bang, I turned to see so many people crowding the area," she said.

The 40-year-old administrative officer expressed concern that the cast fell near the pavement.

"Luckily when the accident happened, it was in the late morning, so no one was walking on the pavement at that time. But what if somebody was?

"It is truly unfortunate that there has been a death and I hope there will be a thorough investigation so that in the future, precautions can be taken," she said.

Mrs Yeo Bee Bee, who was pushing her three-year-old child in a stroller when we talked to her, expressed similar concerns.

"I usually use this pavement to send my children to school, so it was lucky we weren't there when it happened," the housewife, who is in her 40s, said. Her two children are pupils at the nearby Geylang Methodist Primary School.

"If I had decided to send my child to school a bit earlier, I cannot imagine what would happened," she added.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower said that the police informed them about an accident at Buildtech Construction worksite on Wednesday. Officers from the Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate responded immediately and were on-site to investigate.

"Preliminary findings show that a construction worker was standing on top of a formwork structure on the second storey of a building under construction, when the formwork toppled and fell, together with the worker, to the ground," he said.

A police spokesman said that they were called at 10am on Wednesday.

When they arrived, they found a man in his 30s lying motionless. He was then pronounced dead by Singapore Civil Defence Force paramedics. "Police are investigating the incident as an unnatural death," he added.

Too close for comfort

Construction sites are getting close to human traffic because land is scarce here, said Mr Ronnie Tan, the managing director of safety equipment supplier QMT Industrial & Safety.

This close proximity may inadvertently compromise people's safety, said Mr Raj Singh, director of Safety@Work consultancy.

He said: "Building footprints are getting smaller. In some locations, the separation between the public and the worksite may just be a hoarding."

Mr Tan said because of this, the onus is on the project managers and safety officers to follow workplace safety and health guidelines, to ensure that the right measures are in place before any work commences on the site.

There is no law that dictates the minimum distance a worksite should be located away from sidewalks and pavements.

"Rather than having a prescriptive format, it is up to the developers and contractors to plan and design for a safer work environment," Mr Singh said.

The only way to circumvent this problem is to ensure that all hazards and risks are "identified and correctly mitigated".

People should also do their part and be more aware of their surroundings, Mr Singh said.

"Always look where you're going. Don't leave your safety or the safety of your family in someone else's hand.

"If you think that the contractors are working in an unsafe manner, let someone know," he said.

Construction deaths this year

June 6

Mr Low Chim Lam, 59, died after the excavator he was operating toppled at a construction site along Thomson Road.

He was moving the excavator forward when the ground beneath the crane caved in.

March 30

A Bangladeshi worker died after being hit by a spanner at a worksite near a runway of Changi Airport.

The worker, along with two other workers from India, was said to be detaching a drill pipe with a wrench when the pipe started spinning at high speed and made one of the workers lose control of the spanner.

Feb 4

A 31-year-old engineer died from a 2m fall at a construction site on Jurong Island.

Mr Dharmalingam Selvam was conducting pressure testing of a filter separator when an explosion occurred.

It is unclear whether his fall was from the result of the impact of the explosion or if he had lost his balance.

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