SINGAPORE: On Tuesday (Dec 26), the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) and Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced that charges against the National Environment Agency and two of its employees in connection to an explosion that occurred in 2021 at the Tuas Incineration Plant (TIP). Two people were killed in the incident, and another was injured.
The AGC and MOM said in a statement that the charges brought against NEA, Mr Ng Wah Yong, and Mr Lee Yew Binn Christopher are under the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSH).
The incident took place on Sept 23, 2021, at around noon, when the control room at TIP was unable to remotely switch off an industrial fan. NEA sent in three officers to troubleshoot, who were in an electrical switch room when the explosion occurred.
One of the officers, a 65-year-old senior engineering manager, was killed right away, while the other two were injured. Three days later, another NEA officer, an executive engineering manager, passed away due to the critical condition of his injuries.
The third officer sustained burns and was given care in a hospital’s intensive care unit. He survived his injuries and was discharged sometime after the blast.
NEA has been slapped with one charge under the WSH act for allegedly failing to take three measures that would have ensured the safety and health of the officers: ensuring that the Permit-to-Work system implemented for high voltage switchgear racking works complied with prevailing regulations, adequately implementing control measures; and establishing safe work procedures for high voltage switchgear racking works.
Ng Wah Yong, the General Manager of TIP, is also facing one charge related to the specifics above, as he had allegedly negligently endangered the safety of others.
Lee Yew Binn Christopher, the Divisional Director of the NEA’s Waste Infrastructure Operations and Management Division, also faces one charge. He is alleged to have negligently endangered the safety of others by approving a Permit-to-Work system for high-voltage switchgear racking works that did not comply with the prevailing regulations.
Under the WSH Act, “an employer who breaches its duty to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees can be fined up to $500,000,” the statement reads.
“A person found guilty of committing a negligent act which endangers the safety and health of others can be punished with a fine not exceeding $30,000 or with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years, or both,” it also says.
The NEA said shortly after the explosion that the three officers who had gone in to troubleshoot each had over 35 years in service and had contributed at the plant for many years. /TISG