SINGAPORE: ECO Special Waste Management (ECO SWM) was fined S$230,000 on Aug 20 for “unsafe work practices” that led to a fire at its Tuas hazardous waste treatment facility in 2017.
In a press release, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said the company failed to “take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees”.
A flash fire broke out at the plant at 23 Tuas View Circuit on the morning of Feb 23, 2017 while a worker was discharging recovered liquid Hexane into a plastic intermediate bulk container (IMC). It quickly spread into a site-wide fire that affected half the plant.
More than 200 firefighters were deployed to quell the blaze, which took four hours to put out. No workers were injured, and the facility sustained heavy damage.
READ: Tuas fire: Half of plant affected, says Eco Special Waste Management CEO
MOM said in its release that investigations found that the company had failed to conduct a risk assessment to ensure that the plastic IBCs were suitable for storing the highly flammable Hexane.
“The IBC used by ECO SWM was not suitable as it could not dissipate the electrostatic charges generated during the discharging of Hexane, which ignited the flammable Hexane vapour-air mixture that resulted in the fire,” it said.
The company was also found to have failed in ensuring its workers followed safe operating procedures when dealing with hazardous products, it added.
“Hexane and another flammable liquid, Xylene, were spilled onto the floor during previous work processes, and were not cleaned up immediately by the workers,” MOM said.
“The spilled liquids formed flammable vapours in the area, which fuelled the spread of the fire.”
MOM’s director of the major hazards department, Mr Go Heng Huat, said: “Companies in hazardous waste treatment business must ensure that a comprehensive risk assessment of their work processes is conducted and all necessary risk control measures are implemented.
“They also have the duty to ensure that workers understand and adhere to safe operating procedures at all times. MOM will not hesitate to prosecute companies that disregard hazards at the workplaces and contravene safety regulations.”