ECO Special Waste Management (ECO SWM) has been fined S$230,000 on 20 August, according to Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

This is for failing to take reasonably practicable measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees at its hazardous waste treatment facility at 23 Tuas View Circuit, an offence under section 12(1) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act.

The incident dates back to 23 February 2017, when at 6.10am, a worker from ECO SWM was discharging recovered liquid hexane from a product tank into a plastic intermediate bulk container through a flexible metallic hose, when a flash fire broke out.

Attempts by nearby workers to extinguish the flash fire failed, and the localised flash fire quickly spread into a sitewide fire due to the presence of other flammable solvents.

All workers were safely evacuated from the affected premises, and the fire was brought under control by the Singapore Civil Defence Force at 11.00am. While no worker was injured, the hazardous waste treatment facility was badly damaged (as pictured above).

MOM’s investigation findings

Investigations by MOM revealed that ECO SWM failed to conduct a risk assessment to ascertain the suitability of storing highly flammable liquid hexane in plastic IBCs. The IBC used was not suitable as it could not dissipate the electrostatic charges generated during the discharging of hexane, which ignited the flammable vapour-air mixture that resulted in the fire.

ECO SWM also failed to ensure that its workers adhered to safe operating procedures for dealing with hazardous products. Hexane and another flammable liquid, xylene, were spilled onto the floor during previous work processes, and were not cleaned up immediately by the workers. The spilled liquids formed flammable vapours in the area, which fuelled the spread of the fire.

Go Heng Huat, MOM’s Director of the Major Hazards Department, 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."

Photo / Aerial view of the incident scene at 23 Tuas View Circuit