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Public hearings for inquiry into fatal Tuas explosion to start on Sep 20

Public hearings for inquiry into fatal Tuas explosion to start on Sep 20

SCDF paramedics attending to the injured after a Tuas industrial building fire on Feb 24, 2021. (Photo: Facebook/SCDF)

SINGAPORE: The inquiry committee set up to investigate February's fatal fire and explosion at Stars Engrg in Tuas will hold its first tranche of public hearings in open court from Sep 20 to Oct 8.

The first tranche of hearings will focus on ascertaining the "causes and circumstances" of the accident, the Ministry of Manpower said on Thursday (Sep 16).

A second tranche of public hearings will be held from Nov 15 to Nov 19 to "review recommendations to prevent the occurrence of such accidents", the ministry said.

The fire and explosion took place at the industrial building at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 on Feb 24.

Ten workers suffered burns in the incident. Three of them died from their injuries.

The last injured worker was discharged from hospital in June, said MOM.

Preliminary investigations have found the incident was caused by "a combustible dust explosion" involving potato starch powder.

Since the explosion, a team from MOM has been carrying out investigations, facilitated by State Counsel, said the ministry.

"These include visiting the site and gathering evidence, identifying and interviewing key witnesses, and commissioning forensic testing and expert simulations for machineries and materials involved in the accident," said MOM.

Fact and expert witnesses are expected to give testimonies during the first tranche of hearings, the ministry said.

OPEN TO PUBLIC

All hearings of the inquiry committee will be open to members of the public and media, with capacity limited in line with safe management measures, said MOM.

The first tranche of public hearings will take place at Court 8A of the State Courts, from 10am to 5pm on the following dates: Sep 20 to Sep 24, Sep 27 to Oct 1, and Oct 4 to Oct 8.

Dates and timings are indicative and may be subject to change, said MOM. Details on the second tranche of public hearings will be released at a later date.

The last time an inquiry was convened for a workplace accident was in 2004, to investigate the incident at an MRT worksite that led to the collapse of Nicoll Highway.

This inquiry committee is chaired by Senior District Judge Ong Hian Sun. He was the Senior State Counsel who presented evidence in the inquiry into the collapse of the Circle Line at Nicoll Highway in April 2004.

Mr Ong is assisted by two assessors, Mr Lucas Ng Hong Kiang, the general manager of Plant, Petrochemical Corp of Singapore, and Dr Peter Nagler, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research's chief innovation officer. 

A team of State Counsel, led by Ms Kristy Tan, will lead evidence at the hearings, said MOM.

The ministry said in February that then Manpower Minister Josephine Teo would appoint an inquiry committee to carry out a thorough study of the factors leading to the accident, and make recommendations including policy, regulatory or workplace safety and health measures to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents.

In March, Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said the inquiry committee was expected to produce its findings in three to six months.

Source: CNA/dv

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