Accident Advisory: Worker fell through false ceiling

18 Mar 2020

Ref No.: 180320 (1)

UEN: S97SS0046G

Dear Valued ASPRI Members,

Accident Advisory: Worker fell through false ceiling

Ref: 1920093 WSH Alert Accident Notification dated 29 January 2020

On 25 January 2020 around 1:25am, a worker was cleaning a walkway located above the atrium ceiling (false ceiling) of a shopping mall when he fell through the false ceiling. He was conveyed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Recommendations

Building owners, designers and persons in control of similar workplaces and work activities such as occupiers and employers are advised to mitigate all WSH hazards and implement risk control measures to prevent similar accidents:

Building owners

  • Conduct thorough inspections to all areas to identify WSH hazards and assess WSH risks. WSH hazards include risk of falling from or falling through fragile surfaces. These risks are further aggravated if proper guard rails are not installed or there is inadequate lighting.
  • Communicate the hazards and risks to contractors who will carry out maintenance work within the restricted/enclosed/concealed areas. Communication should be thorough and location-specific.
  • Implement control measures to address all hazards identified, with consideration of prevailing regulations, standards and acceptable code of practices.

Examples include:

Provision of perimeter guard-railing or guard rail with intermediate guard rail shown in Figure 6.1 and Figure 6.4 in the Approved Code of Practice for Working Safely at Height.

Note: The above requirements have been stipulated in regulation 9 of the Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013 and ACOP SS 567:2011 – Code of Practice for Factory Layout – Safety, Health and Welfare Consideration. For reference of temporary edge protection, refer to SS EN 13374.

  • If there are areas of fragile surface, warning signs must be displayed at all access points and on the guard rails at suitable intervals to warn persons from accidentally stepping onto them.
  • For poorly lit areas, additional permanent lightings must be provided so that hazard(s) can be easily identified along with their corresponding risk control measures.

Contractors

  • Conduct site-specific risk assessment to the work area for any safety lapses and ensure that precautions have been taken before commencing work.Communicate the hazards and risks to contractors who will carry out maintenance work within the restricted/enclosed/concealed areas. Communication should be thorough and location-specific.
  • Provide standing supervision when carrying out works near false ceiling or fragile surface.
  • Brief workers on on-site hazards, risk controls that are in place and the necessary precautions to take while at work, including proper use of equipment and materials for the work.
  • Ensure that workers have undergone and passed the relevant training for work where there is a risk of falling.

Designers

  • When designing access walkway, services (e.g. Mechanical and Electrical) or supporting structures (e.g. trusses) for restricted or enclosed areas, always pay attention to provision for safe access and egress, adequate lighting and provision of fall protection to future work to be carried out in these areas, such as maintenance work by building contractors, inspection work by Qualified Persons or installation of telecommunication devices by specialist contractors. As a good practice, designers should engage with downstream stakeholders (e.g. Facilities Management practitioners and contractors) to appreciate the way maintenance would be undertaken and account for this at planning and design stage.Provide standing supervision when carrying out works near false ceiling or fragile surface.
  • The WSH (Design for Safety) Regulation stipulated that during the design of a building, regardless of whether it is a new-build construction or an Addition and  Alteration project, developers / building owners and designers must always remember that their design decisions can affect the health and safety of workers and others who construct, maintain, repair, clean, refurbish and eventually demolish or remove the building or structure. Taking into account risks arising from the design can have a positive impact on the project and make it easier for these risks to be managed by contractors who construct and those who maintain the structure.Ensure that workers have undergone and passed the relevant training for work where there is a risk of falling.
  • The WSH Guidelines on Design for Safety helps designers to understand and be aware of significant risks that workers can be exposed to, and how these can arise from their design decisions. Through a maintenance strategy report, designers must capture and provide their clients with health and safety information that might affect them or downstream stakeholders during and after construction, for example, details on how to clean, access or maintain parts of their design.

Further Information

  1. Workplace Safety and Health Act
  2. Workplace Safety and Health (General Provisions) Regulations
  3. Workplace Safety and Health (Risk Management) Regulations
  4. Workplace Safety and Health (Design for Safety) Regulations 2015
  5. Workplace Safety and Health (Construction) Regulations 2007
  6. Workplace Safety and Health (Work at Heights) Regulations 2013
  7. Approved Code of Practice on Workplace Safety and Health Risk Management
  8. Approved Code of Practice for Working Safely at Height
  9. Approved Code of Practice SS 567:2011 – Code of Practice for Factory Layout  – Safety, Health and Welfare Consideration
  10. Approved Code of Practice SS 531: Code of Practice for Lighting of work places Part 1: Indoor
  11. Approved Code of Practice SS 531: Code of Practice for Lighting of work places Part 2: Outdoor
  12. Approved Code of Practice SS 531: Code of Practice for Lighting of work places Part 3: Lighting requirements for safety and security of outdoor work places
  13. Approved Code of Practice SS EN 13374: Temporary edge protection systems – Product specifications – Test methods
  14. Workplace Safety and Health Guidelines on Design for Safety
  15. Workplace Safety and Health Guidelines for Personal Protective Equipment for Work at Heights
  16. WSH Guidelines on Anchorages, Lifelines and Temporary Edge Protection Systems
  17. Workplace Safety and Health Guidelines on Contractor Management
  18. 6 Basic Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Rules for Working at Heights
  19. Work At Heights Toolkit for Supervisors
  20. Working Safely at Heights checklist
  21. Design for Maintainability Guide by BCA
  22. Facade Access Design Guide by BCA

Information on the accident is based on preliminary investigations by the Ministry of Manpower as at 9 March 2020. 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 liability on any party nor should it be taken to encapsulate all the responsibilities and obligations under the law.