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Tuas explosion: Stars Engrg director, manager charged with safety lapses, obstructing justice

Tuas explosion: Stars Engrg director, manager charged with safety lapses, obstructing justice

The damage at 32E Tuas Avenue 11, the day after a fire at the industrial building on Feb 24, 2021. (Photo: Gaya Chandramohan)

SINGAPORE: Stars Engrg, its director Chua Xing Da and production manager Lwin Moe Tun were on Thursday (Jul 21) charged over the fatal explosion at the company's Tuas premises last year.

Three workers were killed and seven others were injured in the explosion at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 on Feb 24, 2021.

An inquiry committee concluded in March that the blast was mainly brought about by the company's failure to ensure the safe use of a mixer machine.

Stars Engrg's core business is the installation of fire protection systems, and the work site was used to manufacture fire-retardant wraps.

The committee found that a ruptured oil jacket in the mixer machine led to the initial blast. This ignited potato starch powder that had accumulated in the air, causing subsequent flash fires.

The committee also strongly recommended criminal proceedings against Chua, who is a Singaporean, and Myanmar national Lwin Moe Tun.

Chua was handed two charges under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to ensure that machinery kept at the work site was safe, and failing to ensure the safety and health of employees on or before Feb 24, 2021.

He allegedly failed to ensure that a heated mixer machine at the workplace was safe for use, which led to the explosion.

He also allegedly failed to ensure that Stars Engrg employees received adequate training and supervision to operate a heated mixer machine, and that they operated it in a safe environment.

Stars Engrg faces two similar charges for failing to ensure that the heated mixer machine was safe for use and to ensure the safety and health of employees between Jun 12, 2020 and Feb 24, 2021.

Lwin Moe Tun, who oversaw the production of the fire-retardant wraps, was handed one charge under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for a negligent act that endangered workers' safety.

He allegedly allowed Stars Engrg employees to perform repairs on a damaged heater that was part of the heated mixer machine on or around Feb 24, 2021.

Both men also face further charges of obstruction of justice, with Lwin Moe Tun receiving two counts for this offence and Chua receiving one.

Lwin Moe Tun is accused of deleting a message and photograph related to the unsafe changing of a faulty heater from a WhatsApp conversation between himself and Mr Subbaiyan Marimuthu, who died in the explosion.

He allegedly did this on his phone on Feb 25, 2021 and on Mr Subbaiyan's phone the next day.

Chua, who also goes by the name Cai Xingda, is accused of abetting Lwin Moe Tun by telling him that it was okay to delete the communications from his phone on Feb 25, 2021.

All three accused will return to court for pre-trial conferences at the end of August.

The penalties for failing to ensure the safety of any machinery kept on the work site and taking steps to ensure the safety and health of employees is up to two years' jail, a fine of up to S$200,000 or both.

The punishment for a negligent act that endangers the safety or health of employees is jail for up to two years, a fine of up to S$30,000 or both.

Those who obstruct the course of justice, or abet such an act, can be jailed for up to seven years, fined or both.

Source: CNA/dv(ta)

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