Company fined S$220,000 after three workers hurt in underground tank accident

Company fined S$220,000 after three workers hurt in underground tank accident

View of the underground storage tank at Lorong Semangka
Photograph showing the view of the inside of the underground storage tank. (Image: Ministry of Manpower)

SINGAPORE: A company called Environmental Landscape was fined S$220,000 on Wednesday (Aug 14) after an explosion in an underground storage tank left three workers with burn injuries, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). 

The incident happened on Jul 25, 2016 at 131 Lorong Semangka. 

Four workers - Rahman Mohammad Ataur, Miah Sobuj, Uddin Mohammad Riaz and Alagappan Vignesh – had been instructed by one Hossan Billal to clean the tank, which was a confined space 3.2m deep and was only accessible with a ladder at the only manhole open at the time. 

Photograph shows re-enactment of ladder placement
Photograph showing re-enactment of ladder placement within the tank entrance. (Image: Ministry of Manpower)

MOM said that after Miah entered the confined space, Rahman passed him a floodlight and electrical socket, and joined him underground. 

Vignesh stayed above ground to observe because it was his first day at work. 

As the last worker 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 confined space’s entrance," the press release stated. 

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 hospital. 

"BLATANT DISREGARD FOR WORKPLACE SAFETY AND HEALTH"

MOM's investigations revealed that Environmental Landscape had failed to conduct any risk assessment for the activities related to the cleaning 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 added that all four workers were not trained to work within a confined space and neither were they informed of the risks involved, such as oxygen deficiency and the build-up of flammable or toxic gases.

Company fined S$220,000 for workplace accident that left 3 employees with burns
Photograph showing an overview of the scene of the incident. (Image: Ministry of Manpower)

The company had also 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.

In connection with the incident, Hossan was also charged for instructing the workers to perform the cleaning works without ensuring that it was safe to do so.

MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, Mr Sebastian Tan said: “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."

"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. 

Source: CNA/zl(hs)

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