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Company fined S$200,000 after an explosion left three workers with burn injuries

Environmental Landscape was fined S$220,000 by the Singapore State Courts yesterday under section 12(1) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act (WSHA) after an explosion left three workers with burn injuries.

According to a media release by the Ministry of Manpower, the landscaping firm failed to take adequate safety measures when cleaning an underground storage tank at 131 Lorong Semangka. This includes:

  • Failing to conduct any risk assessment for the work activities related to the cleaning of the confined space. For example, identifying and addressing critical hazards such as the presence of toxic or flammable gasses before workers entered the space.
  • Failing to train workers to work within a confined space. Workers were also not informed of the risks involved – oxygen deficiency/ enrichment, built-up of flammable or toxic gases which could lead to an explosion – and the safety precautions that should have been taken.
  • Failing to develop and implement procedures for dealing with emergencies that might arise while its employees were at work in the confined space.

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

Case details

On 25 July 2016, four workers from Environmental Landscape – Rahman Mohammad Ataur, Miah Sobuj, Uddin Mohammad Riaz and Alagappan Vignesh – were instructed by Hossan to clean an underground storage tank, a confined space 3.2m deep, that was accessible only via a ladder at the only manhole open at the time.

Miah first entered the confined space, followed by Rahman who passed the former a floodlight and electrical socket. Vignesh stayed above ground to observe and familiarise himself with the job as it was his first day at work.

As Uddin  was entering the confined space, Rahman switched on the socket extension to activate the floodlight. This sparked off an explosion strong enough to propel Uddin and the ladder out of the confined space’s entrance.

Burnt, Uddin ran and dived into a nearby pool while workers assisted Rahman and Miah to climb out of the confined space. All three were conveyed to hospital to treat their injuries.

Sebastian Tan, MOM’s Director of Occupational Safety and Health Inspectorate, 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.”

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