Migrant worker who died after falling through Ion Orchard lift shaft was drunk: Coroner

The coroner added that the worker had climbed over a guard rail, which he need not have done. - WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH COUNCIL

SINGAPORE: A migrant worker who died on April 18, 2023, after falling six metres through a lift shaft in Ion Orchard was drunk while doing welding work, a coroner’s court has found.

In her report on April 19, coroner Sharmila Sripathy-Shanaz said Varadharaju Sundarajan, a 39-year-old Indian national, had a high level of alcohol in his body at the time which likely impaired his judgment and caused the incident.

The coroner added that the worker had climbed over a guard rail, which he need not have done, and failed to inform his site supervisor about what he was working on.

The court heard that Varadharaju had been employed by Fong Hong Engineering as a construction worker since 2016.

He was working the night shift that day and was tasked with performing metal structural work related to the construction of a new lift shaft in retail units occupied by Christian Dior.

At about 11pm on April 17, 2023, Varadharaju attended a meeting with his co-workers before performing cutting work. He was told to inform the site manager after completing it, so that another worker could be assigned to assist with welding work thereafter.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) investigation report, he began welding on his own without wearing a body harness or safety helmet.

At about 12.35am on April 18, he fell through the lift shaft opening on level two and landed on the ground floor.

He was unconscious when taken to Tan Tock Seng Hospital. He had multiple skull fractures, extensive brain haemorrhage, rib fractures and pancreatic injury.

He could not be resuscitated and died at around 6.10am that day.

With 178mg of alcohol detected per 100ml of his blood, a pathologist found that Varadharaju was likely drunk and experienced impaired judgment, unstable gait and a reduced ability to act.

The legal alcohol limit for driving is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

MOM’s occupational safety and health division found that Fong Hong had implemented risk control measures at the time. This included having guard rails with warning signs on the open side of the lift landings to prevent falls.

Varadharaju’s brother was alerted to the death. He told the police that his brother consumed alcohol occasionally, on his days off and during holidays. - The Straits Times/ANN

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