$140K compensation for worker’s death- ST

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$140k compensation for worker’s death

THE family of an airport worker who died suddenly from a heart condition at the age of 21 will receive $140,000 in compensation after the High Court ruled that his death was work-related.

Mr Wang Zengming, a Chinese national whose parents are farmers from Shandong province, collapsed after carrying heavy food and drink containers that were to be loaded onto a plane at Changi Airport.

His family was awarded the compensation by the Commissioner for Labour last October.

But his employers and their insurers appealed against the payout, arguing that Mr Wang’s death was not work-related.

On Monday, Justice Lai Siu Chiu threw out the appeal, saying in a written judgment that the death was linked to carrying the heavy loads.

She said the decision to challenge the payout had served only to prolong the parents’ grief at losing their son, which could have been especially painful given that China allows many families to have only one child.

‘No amount of compensation, let alone the award, would have consoled (the parents) in their irreplaceable loss if the deceased had been their only child,’ said Justice Lai.

Mr Wang had been working as a cabin service assistant for Singapore Airport Terminal Services since July 2007. His job was to deliver food and drinks from the catering building to airplanes.

On the day he died in April 2009, he and a colleague made deliveries to three planes. On the third delivery, they loaded between three and four containers and from eight to 10 oven racks onto trolleys. Each container and oven rack weighed up to 25kg.

The items were then loaded onto a nearby delivery truck, and the workers followed the truck to the plane so they could help unload it. Mr Wang then went to a resting area, where he vomited and collapsed. He died in hospital about an hour later.

It later emerged that he was unknowingly suffering from a heart condition, which caused an irregular heartbeat.

Associate Professor Gilbert Lau from the Health Sciences Authority testified at a previous hearing that the physical strain of Mr Wang’s work caused him to suffer the cardiac arrest.

The insurers – Allianz Insurance, and Singapore Aviation and General Insurance – brought in a private-practice cardiologist, Dr Baldev Singh, who testified that it was more likely the Chinese national had suffered from an unexplained random attack of ‘sudden death syndrome’.

He said this was based on the length of time that the dead man had spent resting after the third delivery, and the non-strenuous nature of his job.

But Justice Lai said in her judgment that the cardiac arrest occurred while Mr Wang was at work. This meant the incident happened in the course of employment, and the insurers had failed to disprove this.

She said the evidence of Prof Lau and Mr Wang’s co-worker Lee Keok Chuan was more convincing, as ‘Lee… had personal experience of the nature of the deceased’s duties and because Prof Lau appeared to be the more reliable witness’.

Justice Lai added that the Commissioner for Labour had been right to discount the ‘armchair evidence’ of supervisors who said Mr Wang’s work was not strenuous and Dr Singh’s opinion that his heart condition was generally benign.

The dead man’s family was represented by lawyer Shanker Kumar, while the insurers’ lawyer was Mr Niru Pillai.

vijayan@sph.com.sg

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

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