Disabled after workplace accidents, Bangladeshi brothers sue S'pore employer, other firms
Both effectively worked for same company, fell from height in separate incidents in 2018.
Two brothers who effectively worked for the same employer have sued the employer and other related companies for damages, after they both fell from a height while working and became permanently disabled in separate incidents.
Bangladeshis Jahid, 40, and Janaed, 44, who both go by one name, were work permit holders here but have since returned to their country after their accidents in 2018.
Mr Jahid now depends on a wheelchair after allegedly falling some 4m from a ladder on April 7, 2018, while doing air-conditioning maintenance work at the Starbucks outlet in United Square mall.
Mr Janaed became a bed-ridden quadriplegic after suffering severe spinal injuries from allegedly falling some 3m while inspecting an overhead chiller at Westgate Tower in Jurong East on Nov 8, 2018.
Last month, The Straits Times reported that the National University Health Services Group, which runs National University Hospital and Alexandra Hospital, where Mr Janaed was warded, will not seek the repayment of medical bills from Mr Janaed, after his employer, Newtec Engineering, defaulted on the bills amounting to $296,000.
Court documents obtained by ST this month show that both brothers, who are represented by Hoh Law Corporation lawyer N. Srinivasan, had been effectively working for the same air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation services company, STA Rita Engineering Services, at the time of their accidents.
Mr Janaed had been engaged by STA Rita Engineering - which employed his brother Mr Jahid - for the work at Westgate Tower, among others.
Mr Janaed is suing both the owner of STA Rita Engineering Services, Mr Felizardo Paras Jose, and his formal employer Newtec Engineering, for more than $650,000 in damages.
He asserted that both were his "de facto employers" at the time of the incident, according to his statement of claim filed last year.
Also named in the lawsuit is the management corporation responsible for the maintenance of Westgate Towers, and the main contractor hired to do air-conditioning and ventilation works for Westgate Towers, Zoe International. Zoe International had sub-contracted part or all of its work to STA Rita Engineering.
Mr Jose had taken Mr Janaed to Westgate Tower to repair a chiller that was installed on an overhead concrete platform about 2.5m wide and some 3.5m off the ground, claimed Mr Janaed.
"As part of his work, the plaintiff was required to climb up a fireman's ladder to get onto the platform so as to inspect the chiller and identify the faulty part that is to be repaired," said the statement of claim.
However, he "accidentally fell off the exposed edge of the platform", said the statement, noting that the platform had no fall restraint measures or any sort of fencing along its exposed edges.
Court documents stated that Mr Janaed was discovered lying on the floor unconscious and injured only when Mr Jose alerted an employee of the management corporation to check on him after his calls to him went unanswered.
Mr Janaed suffered severe spinal injuries, multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung after his fall, according to a doctor's report.
His direct employer, Newtec Engineering, defaulted on the hospital bills, and the Manpower Ministry has said it is investigating Newtec Engineering for failing to buy the required insurance, and for failing to pay the medical expenses.
In his statement, Mr Janaed alleged that the defendants had failed to ensure that he was working at height "under the immediate supervision of a competent person for that work", among other negligence and breach of duty claims.
Aside from Newtec Engineering, the other defendants have entered their defences.
In defence papers filed earlier this year, Mr Jose and the management corporation state that the accident was caused or contributed to by the negligence of Mr Janaed.
The management corporation further noted that Mr Janaed was an "experienced worker" who had been working here since 2002, and had attended a work-at-height course for supervisors.
They claimed Mr Janaed had failed to maintain his balance, and failed to abide by the safety issues that he had learnt, among other negligent behaviour.
Mr Jose and Zoe International are also named as defendants in Mr Jahid's suit.
Mr Jahid is also claiming more than $290,000 in damages from Starbucks Coffee Singapore and UOL Property Investments, which owns the Starbucks unit.
Similarly, Zoe International was the main contractor hired to carry out air-conditioning and ventilation works in the mall, including the Starbucks unit, and it had sub-contracted this work to Mr Jose's company.
In his statement of claim, Mr Jahid said he was tasked by Mr Jose to carry out air-conditioning and ventilation works on top of a false ceiling of the Starbucks outlet, which was about 5m above the floor of the coffee house.
He "lost his balance" while climbing up a ladder and fell off it from a height of more than 4m, said the statement.
He injured his spine and legs in the accident, and has not worked since due to the "profound disabilities that remain after the accident", a doctor's report dated August last year showed.
Mr Jahid alleged that his employer and the three companies have thus been negligent and breached their duties, including in failing to provide him with a safe means of access from the floor to the top ceiling.
They had also instructed or allowed him to work at height without first establishing whether it was safe, he claimed.
In defence, Mr Jose alleged that Mr Jahid had been negligent in the accident as he had failed to use the ladder safely.
They had also provided him with a long rope to convey equipment and tools, but Mr Jahid failed to use it, said Mr Jose.
Zoe International, in its defence filed earlier this year, said Mr Jahid was the safety supervisor of his company "and would have knowledge on all safety measures concerning the workplace".
The other companies also denied the breach of duty and negligence claims.
Both cases are ongoing.
Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.