The below case will certainly take precedent in any other future cases (the so-called Judge-made law).

From the company perspective, the case will definitely have impact on their cost of doing business (irregardless of initial insurance cost, legal case, claim payout, etc). And it ultimately will ‘hurt’ the bottom line which are revenue, profit and/or business continuity.

From the employee perspective, if the company cant make money or is break-even / losing money and unable to sustain the operations; for sure all salaries and other benefits ‘taps’ will be freezed; which is NO good at all for each family ‘rice bowl’.

Thus, to prevent such case from happening, SAFETY is always our First and Last priority without compromising.

Our workers shall be trained to understand their roles to ensure safe work of performing their tasks (prior to work and while working on sites).

And it is the role of Supervisors to perform briefing / training for them. Ensure RA is available and understood. Relevant inspections shall be conducted; and records shall be signed and acknowledged without complacency / delayed. The management (e.g. managerial level) shall ascertain the overall safety compliance on site.

Read on below news (Straits Times, 24 June 2010, by K. C. Vijayan – Law Correspondent)

$1M awarded to paralysed Bangladeshi

An amount thought to be a recorded sum for worker whose future is ruined.

A BAG of cement which fell on a young Bangladeshi construction worker two years ago left him paralysed from the waist down.

It also wrecked his plans to get married when his girlfriend’s parents pulled the plug after hearing the news.

That was then. Now, Mr Hafizul Islam Kofil Uddin, who turned 29 earlier this month, will get what might well be the highest amount awarded by a court to a foreign worker permanently disabled after an industrial accident.

Mr Hafizul became a paraplegic in August 2008 after a 50kg bag of cement fell on his back and fractured his spine while he was working inside a 4.5m-deep trench in Woodlands Ave3.

Future shattered and unable to ever walk again, Mr Hafizul made the bold move of rejecting work injury compensation of $182,000, authorised by the Commissioner for Labour.

Instead, he engaged a lawyer and took the matter to the High Court.

On Tuesday, the court ordered his employer, Poh Huat Heng Construction, and two other firms involved in the works, to pay him about $910,000 – a sum meant to cover his loss of future earnings, the cost of having a full-time nurse, and other medical expenses.

The award had been $1million, but he was found to be 10per cent liable for the accident, although it is not known why he had to shoulder some of the blame.

However, he bore much hardship back in his hometown of Dhaka while awaiting the outcome of the case.

When he arrived back in Bangladesh in a wheelchair after spending five months at a Singapore hospital, his long-time girlfriend Sonia Akter broke down.

‘Sonia met me at the airport… she burst into tears when she saw me,’ he recalled, in documents to back his case.

She said she still wanted to marry him. But her parents intervened and called off the wedding. The couple had been due to tie the knot two months after the accident.

Although Mr Hafizul has spoken to Sonia over the phone many times since his return, her parents forbade her to visit him. ‘When I bring up the subject of marriage, she always tells me to wait patiently,’ he said.

‘When I tell Sonia to forget me and marry someone else, she tells me that she would rather die instead of marrying someone else,’ he said. ‘This is emotionally very, very painful for me.’

He added that he was very upset and alone and felt miserable, as he had nobody with him. His mother died in September last year, while his older brother is married and lives elsewhere. His 75-year-old father is too frail to look after him.

Initially, the family hired a caregiver to look after him at home, but when the caregiver did not show up for work for days on end, it left him helpless in bed, soiled and incontinent.

He now resides in a nursing home and needs help with basic daily activities like bathing, eating and putting on clothes.

News of the compensation amount should be welcome relief. His lawyer Kamala Dewi, of Yeo Perumal Mohideen Law Corporation, informed him of the court’s decision through an interpreter.

Lawyers interviewed by The Straits Times said the compensation amount given to Mr Hafizul is the highest reported amount given to a foreign worker in an industrial accident. Previous highs have hovered around the $500,000 mark.

Some cases may have been settled out of court and any higher amounts would not have been made public.

‘The modest salary of the foreign worker and the lesser costs of future medical treatment in his home country notwithstanding, this award is the highest,’ said lawyer K. Anparasan, of Khattar- Wong Partnership.

The lawyers also explained why the award by the Commissioner for Labour was so much lower.

Under the Work Injury Compensation Act, compensation is worked out based purely on loss of future income and medical expenses, the latter capped at $25,000.

But in a civil court case, the victim can be compensated with higher amounts for medical expenses, and awarded damages for pain and suffering, and nursing care costs.

Other compensation cases
  • Bangladeshi Mohamad Bashar, then 24, paralysed from the waist down in 1996: Received $105,000 in workmen’s compensation.
  • Indian national Sevugan Kalyanasundaram, then 25, paralysed from the neck down in 2003: Paid $184,000 in workmen’s compensation.
  • Bangladeshi Dalim Ahmed Ali, then 27, paralysed from the waist down in 2003: Received $94,000 in workmen’s compensation.

The Work Injury Compensation Act, which replaced the Workmen Compensation Act in April 2008, set higher limits for claims for industrial accidents.

For workers who are permanently incapacitated, the maximum payout is $180,000, plus a further 25 per cent of this amount for those who are totally incapacitated.