Stupid responses to the SMRT tragedy

A very tragic accident happened on the tracks of our SMRT trains yesterday. Two young men had their lives cut short. They were part of a team of 16 men “that went down to the track to investigate a reported alarm from a condition monitoring device for signalling equipment”. The team had been authorised to access the tracks.

Given that there is a set of SOP for investigating the alarm from the condition monitoring device, I would think that this isn’t the first time that SMRT had sent teams to perform such a task. This should have been a routine task. Something that the team would have been trained for.

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Image from SMRT showing track where accident happened

Looking at the image from SMRT of the track where the accident happened, if the team had been walking in single file along the walkway that was about 0.5m wide, then they should be quite safe. And indeed most of the team were safe. 16 people (15 staff and one supervisor) were in the team that went on the track that day. The men who were struck were second and third in line. No one else was even hurt.

So what happened? How did the second and third person in line get hit and killed by an oncoming train that they should have been able to see coming from quite far away?

This is still being investigated. So I am not going to speculate. But there are people who are speculating online. And their speculations are utterly idiotic.

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And here’s another:

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Hello. Firstly, we don’t know what caused the accident. But use backside to think also know that the accident didn’t happen just because the team as out performing what is probably a routine task. If it was, then it wouldn’t have just been two men dead. It would have been the entire team. But something else caused just those two men to stray off the walkway, onto the track, and into the path of the oncoming train. So don’t blame it on the team having to go and perform a maintenance/rectification task.

Secondly, you mean we have to accept that SMRT is too incompetent to come up with SOPs that are safe for their staff to do the necessary work to rectify issues and prevent delays? If that is the case, then might as well say that we shouldn’t have a credible defence force! Because SAF has had more deaths due to training than SMRT ever had due to staff conducting maintenance work. So are we going to accept that our SAF should not have realistic (or less realistic) training as trade-off to reduce or prevent training accidents?

But clearly we need realistic training for a credible defence force. And that comes with its own set of risk. Which we then try to mitigate through various ways. Similarly, the issue with SMRT is not that we shouldn’t demand train services that have as little delays as possible. It should be that we have protocols, procedures, and sufficient training in place to ensure the safety of the crew while they perform their maintenance and rectification tasks.

So to blame the deaths of the two SMRT staff on people’s expectation of train service without delay is completely idiotic. For all we know, this could be a one-off tragedy, not symptomatic of a larger systemic problem.

But if investigations find that this incident is a result of a wider systemic problem, then the people who should take responsibility are those who failed to put in place the protocols, procedures, and training programme to ensure the safety of  staff conducting maintenance and rectification work. And, to quote somebody, “In Japan, the chairman and CEO would call a press conference, take a deep bow and, in the good old days, they may even commit hara-kiri.”

Let’s stop stupid idiotic speculations about what could have caused this tragedy. Let’s only bay for blood after the investigations are complete.

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14 thoughts on “Stupid responses to the SMRT tragedy

  1. Well said! I’m sick of the nonsense our netizens are getting away with online every single time. Singaporeans can’t all be getting so ridiculous right?!

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  2. Two lives were lost; we won’t know what happened until SMRT completes their investigations. We are living in a world of instant gratification. Everybody wants an immediate answer to what happened. Just not possible. In the meantime, the Minister of Transport must say something sensible so that people stop speculating. This is another hallmark of this new generation of MIW. They prefer to remain silent; an incident like this, where lives were lost – the office bearers must open their mouths. What are they waiting for ? Clearance ?

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  3. Pingback: Daily SG: 24 Mar 2016 | The Singapore Daily

  4. I just posted the following comment at https://2econdsight.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/safety-first-murphys-laws-smrts-protocols/

    A moving train will create negative pressure that draws objects toward the train. For example, if your car is stationary at a traffic light and another car is travelling at a high speed towards you on the adjacent lane, you can sometimes feel the car sway depending on the proximity. What had happened was 100% negligence and a manslaughter. SMRT and its CEO must be held accountable. The deceased’s families have grounds to sue them given their so-called ‘protocols’ and public statements. I doubt if they can find such ‘protocols’ practiced in a developed country.

    In addition, I believe these 15 workers were on a training exercise (because you don’t need 15 people to fix this problem!) Then the question is why/who put their lives at risk? You don’t train soldiers with live rounds in a war game. And you should never train your workers under undue risks/conditions.

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  5. Hi!

    “Let’s stop stupid idiotic speculations about what could have caused this tragedy. Let’s only bay for blood after the investigations are complete.”

    I agree with the first statement. But I have problem with your second.

    In the current climate and the government’s track record of withholding info or selectively reporting info, can citizens trust in the integrity of those appointed to investigate and their findings? Do you?

    Where does that leave us, then….but to speculate?

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  6. The problem is that too often these days, the outcomes for the senior $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ highly-paid people who supposedly bear the heavy responsibility — “the buck stops here”, are seen to be let off easy, slap on the wrist. While the victims (almost always from poorer socio-economic background) are pretty much told to move on. E.g. Dominique Lee SAF death (one of many negligent deaths or due to cost cutting in SAF), Benjamin Lee suicide after police detention & interrogation, SGH hepatitis C infections, etc.

    Even Yakult on TV weeping, but in the same breath saying the 2 magic words “move on” for the victims’ families.

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