Accident Advisory: Worker died after being pinned by steel plate

06 Nov 2019

Ref No.: 061119 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker died after being pinned by steel plate

Ref: 1920054 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 14 October 2019

On 17 September 2019 around 6:40pm, a worker tasked to guide an excavator within a construction worksite was pinned by a steel plate which got caught in the tracks of the excavator. The worker was conveyed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.


Workers are inevitably exposed to the risk of accidents at construction sites where heavy equipment (or machinery) are used, especially when the equipment comes in contact with a fixed structure or a heavy object such as the steel plate on the ground in this case. Persons in control of workplaces with such hazards should consider the following risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Ground Preparation

  • Compact the ground with suitable material (e.g. gravel) during site preparation to facilitate movement of heavy equipment (both track-mounted or wheel-mounted) such as excavators, mobile cranes or a dump truck.
  • For uncompact or uneven ground, heavy-duty steel plates are commonly placed to provide a firm surface for the movement of heavy equipment. As far as possible, these plates should be lined up and secured next to each other along the access route and aligned (flushed) along their lengths.

Trained Operator and Safe Manoeuvring Technique

  • Ensure heavy equipment operators are trained for the specific make and model of the equipment they are handling. Training should include field lessons on ground manoeuvring, with and without steel plates. Untrained personnel must not be permitted to operate heavy equipment.
  • Advise heavy equipment operators to move at a safe speed (within the stipulated speed limit) when driving and to stay alert for any unusual occurrence, such as objects getting caught in the equipment’s track/wheels. Authorise the heavy equipment operator to stop the equipment immediately should anything unusual happen.
  • When travelling on ground laid with steel plates, ensure that the heavy equipment is manoeuvred directly and completely on top of the plate so that the plate will not be tilted by the weight of the equipment or lifted by the equipment’s track/wheel. Such an occurrence endangers the safety of any person nearby including the ground guide(s).
  • The heavy equipment operator should keep visual contact of the ground guide and stop all movement of the equipment once visual contact is lost.

Competent Ground Guide

  • Ensure that the appointed ground guide has received the necessary training for the task including the correct use of hand signals and/or the device used for field communications.

Equipment Maintenance

  • Subject all heavy equipment to regular inspection and preventive maintenance to ensure it is roadworthy and in good working condition with low chance of mechanical breakdown when deployed in the field.

Safe Worker Access

  • Provide workers in the vicinity with a safe means of access to and egress from their work area within the site.
  • Cordon off the danger area where the heavy equipment will be operating or moving and install suitable signage to warn workers to stay clear of the hazard zone.

Worksite Illumination

  • For work after the sun sets, ensure that the work area is sufficiently lit to allow the work to safely proceed.

Work Supervision

  • The supervisor (or appointed person) should walk around the work site to confirm that there is no person or obstruction in the vicinity prior to movement of heavy equipment. This practice must be clearly documented in the safe work procedure and emphasised during daily toolbox meetings.
  • Work supervision includes supervision of on-site work undertaken by contractors and subcontractors. All contractors and subcontractors must work closely with the occupier or principal to develop site-specific risk assessments and safe work procedures for the assigned work activities
  • Supervisors to conduct regular toolbox meetings so that all workers are aware of on-site dangers and the risk control measures that are in place.

Advice for Workers

  • Be aware of moving equipment around you.
  • Keep a safe distance (at least 3 metres) from all moving equipment.
  • Never place yourself between moving equipment and unsecured materials on the ground.
  • Proceed with the work as a ground guide only if you are trained for the task.
  • When guiding the movement of heavy equipment, put on a high visiblity safety vest and equip yourself with a whistle (or equivalent) so that you may easily alert the heavy equipment operator to stop in case of an emergency.

Risk Assessment

Conduct a thorough Risk Assessment (RA) for all work activities to manage any foreseeable risks that may arise during the movement of heavy equipment. The RA should cover, but is not limited to the following:

  • Identification of on-site hazards (e.g. unstable or uneven ground, presence of obstacles).
  • Demarcation of safe route for heavy equipment/vehicular access.
  • Use of steel plates to facilitate movement of heavy equipment and address the possibility of the plates being tilted or lifted as equipment move on them.
  • Incorporating checks into the Safe Work Procedure to ensure that the ground guide is in a safe position prior to moving the heavy equipment.
  • Designation of safe route of access for workers to get to or from their designated work location(s) in the vicinity where heavy equipment are used.
  • Effectiveness of hazard communication to all workers at the work site including contractors and sub-contractors.

Further Information

  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (Construction) Regulations 2007
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  5. Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  6. CP 79: 1999 Code of Practice for Safety Management System for Construction Worksites (Incorporating Amendment No. 1, June 2010)
  7. SS 531: 2008 (2014) Code of Practice for Lighting of Work Places – Part 2: Outdoor
  8. SS 531: 2008 (2014) Code of Practice for Lighting of Work Places – Part 3: Lighting Requirements for Safety and Security of Outdoor Work Places
  9. Workplace Safety and Health Guidelines on Contractor Management.
  10. WSH Council’s Toolbox Meeting Kit
  11. UK Health and Safety Executive’s The Safe Use of Vehicles on Construction Sites

Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at 31 October 2019. This may be subject to change as investigations are still on-going. Please also note that the recommendations provided here are not exhaustive and they are meant to enhance workplace safety and health so that a recurrence may be prevented. The information and recommendations provided are not to be construed as implying any liability on any party nor should it be taken to encapsulate all the responsibilities and obligations under the law.