Monday, 28 Sep 2020

12 weeks' jail for supervisor, $300,000 fine for company over incident that led to diver's death

SINGAPORE – The assistant diving supervisor of a ship repair company was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail on Tuesday (Aug 11) over an underwater incident in 2014 which resulted in the death of a diver.

The company, Underwater Contractors, was also sentenced to a $300,000 fine over the incident, during which diver Mr Kwok Khee Khoon was killed after he was sucked into a ship’s pipe opening.

Underwater Contractors and its supervisor, David Ng Wei Li, 37, had been found guilty each of an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act in February this year, following a trial.

Mr Kwok was working for the company when he was killed at the Eastern Working Anchorage, in waters near Marina South Pier, on June 4, 2014.

The company had been engaged to carry out underwater survey works on vessel Frisia Kiel.

Mr Kwok was one of six divers working at the vessel’s bow thrusters when he was seen being sucked into a pipe opening in the ship.

Several attempts by other divers to pull him away from the opening failed and he was only retrieved after the pump in the starboard sea chest – which is meant to suck in seawater to cool the ship’s engines and generators – was shut down.

Mr Kwok was motionless, and paramedics pronounced him dead at around 7.40pm that day. He was later found to have died of traumatic asphyxia.

In their earlier submissions, Ministry of Manpower prosecutors Delvinder Singh and Shanty Priya had told the court that Underwater Contractors had failed to ensure that safe work procedures were adopted during the diving operation, among other things.

They had argued that the safest way to perform the diving works would have been to completely shut down the pumps in the sea chest that the divers were to work in.

This was not done during the incident. The pumps were kept operating at “reduced flow” instead.

The prosecutors had also said Ng had instructed the divers to perform the works, despite knowing that there was a risk of them being sucked into the sea chest.

Mr Alfred Lim and Ms Jaime Lye, who are lawyers for the company and Ng, said that their clients are intending to appeal both their conviction and sentence.

For their respective offences, the company could have been fined up to $500,000, while Ng could have been jailed for up to two years and fined up to $30,000.

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