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Court finds firm wholly to blame for worker's injuries

Court finds firm wholly to blame for worker's injuries

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 24 Aug 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

Employer argued man unexpectedly fell, but judge finds co-worker's evidence untruthful.

The High Court placed total blame on a maintenance company for injuries suffered by a worker who fell from a 7m-high fireman's ladder while cleaning and waterproofing a ventilation duct.

The court held Proof-Tech Waterproofing & Maintenance (Proof-Tech) liable to compensate Mr Md Suzon Miah Md Abdul Razak, for failing to ensure his safety.

Mr Suzon, now 31, fell when he was standing near the top of the ladder at the worksite in Toh Tuck Link on June 26, 2015.

Mr Suzon, who got married two months earlier, suffered a spinal fracture and became a paraplegic.

He has since returned home to Bangladesh.

He sued his employer for negligence on various grounds, including failure to ensure safe work procedures.

Through his lawyers N. Srinivasan and Dzulemry Bachok from Hoh Law Corporation, he sought damages to be assessed by the court for loss of earnings, medical treatment costs, as well as pain and suffering.

High Court claims involve sums of more than $250,000.

Proof-Tech's lawyers Ramasamy Chettiar and Simone Chettiar denied the claims and argued Mr Suzon "somehow unexpectedly fell while he was climbing".

But Justice Ang Cheng Hock, in brief oral grounds on Wednesday, said the company's claim was dependent on the evidence of co-worker Khan Md Rasel, who was "far from being a reliable witness".

The judge said the "untruthful" evidence was exposed when the co-worker, also from Bangladesh, was cross-examined during the seven-day hearing earlier this year.

Justice Ang said it was quite "implausible" that Mr Suzon could have fallen from a height of 3.5m, as Mr Rasel had claimed, from an inclined ladder to a position behind the co-worker.

Mr Rasel said he was at the foot of the ladder at the time.

The judge said: "For this to have happened, logic dictates Suzon would have had to push off from the ladder with some force in a deliberate backwards motion."

The judge added that Mr Suzon fell not when he was climbing the ladder, but when he was standing near the top of the ladder carrying out the work of cleaning the ventilation duct.

In bidding for the job, Proof-Tech had prescribed installation of aluminium staging for high access as part of the work scope. The quotation was accepted on that basis.

Justice Ang noted that Proof-Tech must have decided it would not have been safe for its workers to use a ladder to carry out the work, given the absence of any anchorage points.

The judge found that Mr Suzon was not careless and did not contribute to the negligence and should not be apportioned any blame.

A separate hearing will be held for an assessment of the sum to be paid.

Mr Md Suzon Miah Md Abdul Razak, seen here with his wife Habiba Khatun, became wheelchair-bound after the accident in 2015.

Mr Md Suzon Miah Md Abdul Razak, seen here with his wife Habiba Khatun, became wheelchair-bound after the accident in 2015. PHOTO: MD SUZON'S FAMILY

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

 

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