Safety procedure may not have been followed in tragic SMRT accident

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After several news outlets reported that the victims of the tragic accident near Pasir Ris station “were on the other side of the track from the dedicated walkway for maintenance staff when they were hit by the train,” the transport operator has confirmed that SMRT is unable to confirm if the victims were on the trackway or on the walkway when they were hit, or if anyone in the group had deviated from the walkway at any point in time.

Both men who were killed, Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf, joined SMRT in January 2016 and were part of a technical team of 15 that went down to the track to investigate a reported alarm from a condition monitoring device for signalling equipment. Track access was authorised and the men had been on the walkway alongside the track.

SMRT’s CEO, Desmond Kuek, confirmed soon after the accident on 22 Feb that the maintenance investigation was a “supervised activity” and that a supervisor had been walking in front of the two men killed. However, SMRT has now acknowledged that safety protocols were not followed in the lead-up to an accident.

SMRT’s safety protocols require the maintenance staff must coordinate with the Signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop, and to ensure that no trains enter the affected area before they step on the trackway. SMRT said that its records do not show that this procedure took place.

Mr Kuek had on 22 Feb said, “exactly how they got on to the track, or got close enough to the oncoming train, that was moving in the direction opposite to them, is the issue that we’re trying to establish with the witnesses that we are trying to get detailed accounts from.”
FB_IMG_1458645392686Late yesterday (23 Feb), the transport operator also released a timeline of events leading to the accident.

SMRT TIMELINE OF EVENTS

  • At 8.08am on Tuesday (Mar 22), a signalling condition monitoring device installed along the tracks near Pasir Ris MRT Station registered a warning.
  • At 10.54am, authorisation was granted for the Permanent Way team and the Signal team to move down from the station platform, cross the track, and access the maintenance walkway in order to proceed to the location of the device.
  • The 15 members comprised 1 engineer, 5 assistant engineers, 5 technical officers and 4 trainees. Led by an experienced assistant engineer, they moved in a single file along the maintenance walkway (of approximately 0.5 metre width) beside the track toward the device location. They followed the safety procedure of walking in the direction facing oncoming train traffic.
  • The two staff that died – Nasrulhudin and Muhammad Asyraf – were following immediately behind the lead assistant engineer.
  • Before the team is allowed to step back on to the trackway, the following procedure must be carried out: The team must coordinate with the Signal unit at the station for oncoming trains to be brought to a stop and to ensure that no trains enter the affected sector. SMRT records do not show that this procedure took place, it said.
  • Pasir Ris MRT station is a terminal station with two platforms. Trains arriving at Pasir Ris can berth at either platform. Trains can cross from one track to the other as they approach the station. In this accident, the train moving in automatic mode was routed to Platform 2. When the train captain saw staff on the track, he immediately applied emergency brakes but was unable to prevent the accident.
  • The accident took place at 11.08am and was immediately reported to the Operations Control Centre

A concerned group of Singaporeans in the meantime are inviting people “come out this weekend to lay wreaths and flowers at the Pasir Ris MRT track and Station,” as a show of solidarity and condolence to the family of the dead SMRT workers.

The group hopes that such an act of solidarity by Singaporeans will help to express the public outrage over the tragic accident and to signal the public’s demand for the highest level of investigation over the mishap.
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