Fill Me In
On 28 September, the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council issued an alert stipulating that risk assessment and risk control measures to be put in place before workers are tasked to isolate pipelines.
This is in response to the death of a worker following an incident at the Singapore Refining Company. Two others are still in recovery from the accident.
What are the new control measures?
In its statement, the WSH listed a few examples of risk control measures, such as:
- Identification of the pipelines to be cleared;
- Thorough depressurisation, draining, purging or flushing;
- Checks to ensure that pipeline is free of hazardous substance prior to opening of any pipeline;
- Deployment of fixed on-site and portable gas detectors;
- Implementation of safe work procedures and a permit-to-work system; and
- Appropriate personal protective equipment for possible hazardous gas/liquid release.
In addition, workers must also be given the appropriate personal protective equipment to protect them from hazardous gas and liquid releases.
Why was the alert issued?
The alert came about as a result of the death of a worker who was overwhelmed by toxic gas while carrying out isolation work on pipelines at 1 Merlimau Road on Jurong Island, where the Singapore Refining Company is located.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), two workers were preparing a pipeline for maintenance work at about 6 p.m., when they were both overcome by toxic gas. A third worker tried to rescue them, but was unsuccessful.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) was alerted at around 6.10 p.m., and the three workers were brought to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
Unfortunately, one of the workers, a 30-year-old Indian national, succumbed to his injuries and passed away on 22 September. It is not known if he was one of the initial workers preparing the pipe, or the one who tried to save the others. The employer was identified by MOM as PEC, a plant and terminal engineering specialist provider.
Bill Stone, chief executive and general manager of the Singapore Refining Company, confirmed that the three workers were exposed to hydrogen sulfide, a colourless, poisonous gas, while performing maintenance at the refinery.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and injuries resulting from this incident. The safety of our personnel and partners is our immediate priority while we fully cooperate with the relevant authorities in their investigation,” he said.
What’s happening now?
A spokesperson from MOM revealed that maintenance at the sites has been halted, and investigations are ongoing.
MOM and the WSH Council also revealed that there have been 16 workplace deaths in the first half of the year. Workplace injuries have fallen by 25 per cent, at 4,996 deaths from January to June this year, as compared to 6,630 in the same period last year.
However, this could likely be due to the cessation of workplace activities from April to June as a result of the pandemic.