After more than two years, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has issued a fine amounting to S$220,000 on Wednesday (Aug 14) to an environmental firm named Environmental Landscape. The fine is a direct consequence of an explosion in an underground storage tank that resulted to serious burn injuries of three workers. The explosion took place on July 25, 2016 at 131 Lorong Semangka.
How it happened
Rahman Mohammad Ataur, Miah Sobuj, Uddin Mohammad Riaz and Alagappan Vignesh – were instructed by Hossan Billal to clean the tank, a confined space 3.2m deep and was only accessible using a ladder at the only manhole open at the time.
According to MOM authorities, after Miah entered the confined space, Rahman passed him a floodlight and electrical socket and joined him underground. Vignesh stayed above ground to observe as it was only his first day at work. As the last worker Uddin entered the confined space, Rahman switched on the socket extension to activate the floodlight.
In the news story that was released, the switching act “sparked off an explosion which was strong enough to propel Uddin and the ladder out of the confined space’s entrance.”
Burnt, Uddin ran and dived into a nearby pool, while other workers helped Rahman and Miah out of the space.
All three were taken to the hospital.
Workplace safety issues
Based on MOM’s investigations, Environmental Landscape failed to conduct risk assessment measures related to the cleaning activities of the confined space.
Critical hazards such as the presence of toxic or flammable gases were neither identified nor addressed before the workers entered the space to carry out work.
MOM also revealed that all four workers were not professionally-equipped to work within a confined space and neither were they notified of the risks involved and the danger that could transpire, such as oxygen deficiency and the build-up of flammable or toxic gases.
It was also found out that the company failed to inform the workers of the safety precautions that should have been taken and did not develop and implement procedures for dealing with emergencies that might arise while its employees were at work in a confined space.
Because of what happened, Hossan was charged for instructing the workers to perform the cleaning works without guarantees that it was safe 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,” MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, Mr Sebastian Tan said.
“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,” he added. -/TISG