Company fined $230,000 for unsafe work practices that led to fire at hazardous waste treatment facility in Tuas

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ECO Special Waste Management Pte Ltd (“ECO SWM”) was fined $230,000 on Tuesday (20 August) for an offence under section 12(1) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act 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.

In a press release on Wednesday (28 August), the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) revealed that a worker from ECO SWM was discharging recovered liquid Hexane from a product tank into a plastic Intermediate Bulk Container (IBC) through a flexible metallic hose when a flash fire broke out on 23 February 2017 at 6.10am.

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

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

Investigations by the ministry revealed that ECO SWM failed to conduct a risk assessment to ascertain the suitability of storing highly flammable liquid Hexane in plastic IBCs.

However, the IBC used by the ECO SWM was not suitable as it could not dissipate the electrostatic charges generated during the discharging of Hexane, which ignited the flammable Hexane vapour- air mixture that resulted in the fire.

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

Er. 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.”

“MOM will not hesitate to prosecute companies that disregard hazards at the workplaces and contravene safety regulations,” it added.

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