Company fined $220k for workplace explosion that injured 3 workers

The underground storage tank where the explosion occured that caused burn injuries to three workers. (PHOTO: Ministry of Manpower)

SINGAPORE — A landscape maintenance company was fined $220,000 by the state courts on Wednesday (14 August) for not taking adequate safety measures in a workplace incident that caused three workers to suffer burn injuries.

The Ministry of Manpower said in a media release that Environmental Landscape Pte Ltd failed to conduct any risk assessment prior to cleaning an underground storage tank at 131 Lorong Semangka on 25 July 2016.

Confined space with only 1 access point

On that day, four of its workers – Rahman Mohammad Ataur, Miah Sobuj, Uddin Mohammad Riaz, and Alagappan Vignesh – were instructed by Hossan Billal to perform the task in a confined space that was 3.2m deep, accessible only via a ladder from a manhole.

All four workers were not trained to work within a confined space, MOM said.

After Miah entered the confined space, Rahman passed him a floodlight and electrical socket, before joining him underground.

As Uddin was entering the confined space, Rahman switched on the socket extension to activate the floodlight. This sparked off an explosion which was strong enough to propel Uddin and the ladder out of the entrance.

Uddin ran and dived into a nearby pool to ease the burning sensations on his body, while other workers assisted Rahman and Miah to climb out of the confined space. The three workers were subsequently conveyed to hospital to treat their injuries.

Failure to implement safety measures

MOM’s investigations found that Environmental Landscape did not identify critical hazards, such as the presence of toxic or flammable gases, before the workers entered the confined space.

The workers were also neither informed of the risks involved – such as oxygen deficiency/enrichment and built-up of flammable/toxic gases which could lead to an explosion – nor the safety precautions to take.

The company also failed to develop and implement procedures for dealing with emergencies that might arise while its employees were at work in the confined space.

In connection with the same incident, Hossan was also charged under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for instructing the workers to perform the cleaning works without ensuring that it was safe for the workers to do so.

“The company had endangered the lives of its workers by requiring them to perform a high-risk job without any training, instruction, safety equipment or emergency rescue system,” said Sebastian Tan, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health.

“This blatant disregard for workplace safety and health is unacceptable. We will continue to press for high fines against employers who knowingly put their workers at risk.”

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