Builder fined $130k for repeated safety lapses

Construction firm Kingsford Construction has been fined $ 130,000 under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for multiple safety lapses at a worksite, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said yesterday.

The firm, which was convicted and fined last Thursday, had been engaged to carry out construction works at Hillview Peak, a condominium development.

The MOM said its Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate conducted an inspection on June 8 last year and found safety lapses that had been uncovered in two previous inspections in October 2014 and May 2015. Kingsford was then made to pay composition fines of $ 10,000 and $ 19,000 respectively for the lapses, such as open sides and staircases without handrails, that could lead to fall from heights. Stop-work orders (SWO) were also issued. The most recent inspection – of three residential blocks, two basement carparks, a swimming pool and other clubhouse facilities – found these safety failures:

• Open sides at eight locations were not covered or protected by effective guard rails or barriers to prevent fall from heights;

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• Staircases were not provided with handrails, exposing persons to the risk of falling off the edge of either side of a staircase;

• Staircases were not provided with emergency lighting, exposing workers to the risk of tripping as some steps of the staircases were undergoing modification works;

• Poor housekeeping at multiple places in worksite, exposing workers to the risk of tripping; and

• The safety interlock of several passenger and material hoists at the worksite was not functioning properly, exposing persons to the risk of falling or coming into contact with moving parts of the hoists.

A full SWO was issued from June 8 to July 18 last year.

Given its repeated failures and recalcitrant attitude towards workplace safety and health, Kingsford was subsequently charged for its failure to take “reasonably practicable measures” to ensure the safety and health of its employees.

Mr Chan Yew Kwong, the MOM’s director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, said: “MOM sought a heavy penalty because of Kingsford’s blatant disregard for safety and its repeated failure to comply with our regulatory requirements.

“Companies must address all safety failures identified during a MOM inspection and put in place effective measures to prevent recurrence. They should not put their workers’ lives at risk and wait for an accident to happen before taking safety seriously.”

Statistics released by MOM and the Workplace Safety and Health Institute on Wednesday showed a plunge in workplace deaths and injuries in the first half of this year.

However, falls from height were one of the top two causes of workplace deaths. A total of 4,300 workplace safety and health violations were uncovered, with 28 companies ordered to stop operations. Fines totalling $ 500,000 were imposed on companies on the spot.

Kingsford Construction is wholly owned by Mr Cui Zhengfeng, who made the news in 2012 when his company Kingsford Development made its debut in the property market by outbidding six others and paying $ 243.2 million for a land parcel in Hillview Avenue to build condominium apartments, the same worksite where the MOM found safety lapses in the past three years.

Mr Cui also made the news in 2014 when he bought for $ 33 million a Sentosa Cove bungalow which is the registered address of his construction company fined by the MOM.

Attempts to reach him yesterday were unsuccessful. A staff member at his company, who gave her name as Ms Chan, said he is overseas and does not have a mobile phone.

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