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Shell fined S$400,000 for fire at petroleum refinery

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Shell Eastern Petroleum (Shell) was fined S$400,000 for a fire at a petroleum refinery in Pulau Bukom on 21 August 2015 which caused varying degrees of burns in six workers.

The Ministry of Manpower revealed that the company was charged under section 11(a) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to implement adequate control measures to ensure compatibility of works carried out at the refinery.

Investigations revealed that there was a systemic failure in Shell’s oversight to check for compatibility of different work activities carried out within the same vicinity at the same time.

Hence, on 21 August 2015, the hot works and cold works carried out by two groups of workers in the same vicinity were not coordinated, creating a situation where flammable vapours generated by the cold works was ignited by sparks from the hot works.

In the process of escaping from the fire, six workers sustained varying degrees of burns. Two workers who were closer to the fire suffered about 50% and 70% burns. The fire was contained and extinguished by the Bukom Emergency Response Team within 30 minutes.

Commenting on the incident, Er. Go Heng Huat, MOM’s Director of the Major Hazards Department, said: “The refinery, as a major hazard installation, must properly manage safety and risk control measures. The lives of workers and the public could have been put at risk because adequate control measures were not properly implemented. Even though there was no loss of life in this case, the potential for more severe consequences was evident.”

He also noted that MOM will continue to strengthen its enforcement of companies’ workplace safety and health practices, including prosecution when there have been infringements that put the lives of workers at risk.

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