By Zhan Nanxin

When Alex touches Sardar Md Shamin’s shoulder, he flinches.

The accident is several months ago, but should his injury be permanent,  he will be unable to take up any heavy-duty job again, in Singapore or in any other country.  He will be unable to support both his sisters back home in Bangladesh who are still schooling.

Sarder, 28, is now waiting for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to finish the investigation of his case and to determine the degree of his permanent incapacity before he can receive disability compensation. While the case may be reaching a conclusion soon, Shamin’s fate still remains uncertain. How much will he receive?  Will the amount be sufficient to make up for the loss in income he will suffer through the rest of his life?

In June 2015, a piece of metal formwork fell onto his right shoulder from a height of about two metres. It was just after lunch. As the signalman, his job was to give the go-ahead for a manoeuvre. When he gave the signal that day, his co-worker tripped over and dislodged the formwork while pushing the scaffolding, resulting in a piece of metal falling on him.

The hit must have been quite bad. Sarder fell unconscious for a few minutes till revived by a friend. He says he found himself bleeding at the shoulder. A co-worker alerted the on-site supervisor, but instead of sending him to  a doctor, the supervisor told Sarder to hold on. “Supervisor say, ‘Wait’,” is how Sarder describes the response. He was given Panadol, a pain suppressant, but otherwise did not receive immediate medical treatment. Sarder had to remain at the construction site till the evening hours, when he was transported to his dormitory as was the routine.

Back in the dormitory,  the unbearable pain left him in torment throughout the night. Seeing him in that state, his friend decided to take him to Tan Tock Seng Hospital the following morning, where he was x-rayed, treated and given 20 days’ medical leave (MC). Subsequent visits have extended the MCs given to over two months.

From his account, it appears that the doctors recommended further treatment. The hospital asked his employer for a letter of guarantee, so that it can be assured of payment for the additional procedures. However, Sarder says the employer has to date not provided such a guarantee, and all he now gets is physiotherapy. This may not be sufficient to tackle the underlying problem. He’s even had to pay small amounts himself each time he visits the hospital.

“The law says that employers are to bear the cost of all necessary medical treatment for foreign workers, ” explains Alex Au of TWC2.

Before this accident, Shamin had also been shortpaid on a regular basis. Despite working on Sundays on a regular basis, he was only given the rate of one-and-a-half times regular pay, instead of twice (as mandated by the Employment Act) for the Sundays worked.  Also, in 2012, he had to pay his employer $1,000 for the renewal of his work permit — which is illegal.

After hearing his story, I cannot help but to feel a sense of injustice for him. Not only does he have to incur his own medical costs, his injury is also preventing him from supporting his family back home. In the long run, his shoulder injury may have a huge impact on his family income.

It seems that a lot more has to be done to improve work safety, and to enforce the law requiring employers to provide prompt medical attention, as well as other laws regarding salary.