Decorative ledges to blame for teen death in Orchard Central

From ‘Rethink use of decorative ledges in high-rise buildings’ and ‘Safety measures needed to prevent falls’, 28 Feb 17, ST Forum

(M Lukshumayeh): It was sad to read about how 17-year-old Jonathan Chow Hua Guang fell from a link bridge at Orchard Central and died (Teen fell after ledge gave way under his weight; Feb 25).

It was reported that the seemingly solid-looking ledge that the teen set foot on was nothing more than a decorative plaster board casing.

The obvious question that surfaces is: Should such ledges be allowed in high-rise buildings?

What if officers from the Singapore Civil Defence Force unwittingly use such a ledge in their rescue work?

I hope the authorities will look into ensuring that the use of these decorative ledges is discontinued immediately, to avoid any further incidents.

(Loong Chik Tong): …This unfortunate incident could have been avoided if there were prominent warning signs on the glass balustrade, or if the height of the glass panel was higher, so it cannot be climbed over with such ease.

Shopping malls should also have high safety glass panels along the escalators, like Jem mall in Jurong East has. This is an effective measure to prevent falls.

Carparks in public buildings should also have clearly-marked pedestrian routes to the exits. Can building owners go beyond statutory requirements, and be more proactive in anticipating risks to public safety?

According to reports, the deceased Jonathan Chow was attempting to Snapchat a stunt video before falling 4 storeys to the ground, apparently deceived by the ‘concrete-like’ appearance of the ledge. The CEO of Far East Organisation called the plasterboard box-up an ‘interior architecture treatment‘. Chow’s dad understandably started pointing fingers at inadequate safety measures in shopping malls, just like the writers above, while the media remained silent on the teen’s fatal recklessness, or the danger of showing off on social media. Someone described Chow as one who ‘lived life with no regrets’, which doesn’t console anyone nor make doing death-defying shit because YOLO justifiable.

It’s interesting that one writer mentioned Jem as an example, considering its cursed history of fires, collapsing ceilings and shattering glass doors. And these are structures WITHOUT any warning signs that shoppers take for granted. Chow’s death was an unfortunate accident, but there’s little that beefing up barriers can do if people insist on engaging in aerial acrobats for thrills, whether or not the ledge was made of plaster, concrete or surrounded with barbed wire and flashing red lights. Despite installing safety barriers in MRT stations to stop people from jumping in front of trains, we still hear of people straying onto tracks.

And if, as one writer says, the SCDF wouldn’t be able to tell if a ledge is safe enough to step on, that speaks poorly of our civil defence capabilities, that they may not even be trusted to rescue a cat in a tree because they keep falling off broken branches.

It’s also absurd to put a warning sticker not to climb over a glass balustrade when the object exists for no other purpose than to stop you from falling over. It’s like separating a crocodile and you with an enclosure bearing the sign ‘Do not try to pet the croc’.  If anything, forbidding the action may even encourage Snapchatters to do it with more vigour. Like kids smoking below a No Smoking sign, or breaking into a ‘No Trespassing’ Zone.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you effectively seal off all high-rise shenanigans, that you activate security staff round the clock to ensure there’s no monkey business. If someone slips and cracks his skull while walking on level ground, do we blame the building managers for having floors that are too smooth? If a teen decides to use a railing for wheelchair users as a balancing beam or a skateboard trick, crashes and dies, do we put signs that say ‘Do not jump around on railings’?  How about putting a sign upfront at the mall’s entrance saying ‘Do not do stupid things or play Pokemon Go’?

I wonder how different public reaction might have been if Chow took the leap of his own accord. We may start blaming the education system, the parents, cyberbullying. Anything else except the lack of signs on glass barriers telling you to call SOS for help. 

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One Response

  1. talk about becoming a nanny state where the garment must regulate every little thing? this chap obviously won the darwin award…

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