Written Answer by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng to PQ on the explosion at the Tuas Incineration Plant
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1258 FOR THE SITTING ON 1 NOVEMBER 2021
MP: Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether there will be a public inquiry on the fatal accident which occurred at the Tuas Incineration Plant on 23 September 2021; (b) what are the existing measures to protect workers at incineration plants; and (c) whether there is a need to further enhance safety measures at incineration plants.
The nature of the accident at Tuas Incineration Plant on 23 September 2021 concerned work at the electrical switch room. The relevant safety measures are therefore those that apply to working in that context, and not on the operation of incineration plants per se.
2 Prior to the commencement of any works involving electrical installations or equipment such as high voltage switchgear, a proper risk assessment of the work must be carried out. Associated control measures and safe work procedures that are reasonably practicable must be implemented. Such measures include, but are not limited to: (a) ensuring that only competent and trained personnel are allowed to carry out or supervise the works; (b) ensuring that electrical equipment are isolated, where possible, from the electricity supply before any work on the equipment is carried out; (c) adhering strictly to the engineering controls and safe work procedures recommended by the equipment manufacturer; and (d) ensuring that workers involved in the works don the appropriate personal protective equipment. These measures, if adequately taken, remove or minimise risks faced by persons working with electrical installations.
3 The Workplace Safety & Health Act allows the convening of an inquiry committee to ascertain the causes and circumstances of an accident, dangerous occurrence or occupational disease. We do so when the accident is of a catastrophic or serious nature, and is technically complex. Past examples include the Nicoll Highway collapse in 2004 and the fire explosion in Stars Engrg Pte Ltd in February 2021.
4 Not every fatal accident of a serious nature warrants the appointment of an inquiry committee. For example, no inquiry committee was convened for the PIE viaduct collapse in July 2017 which killed one and injured another 10 workers, nor for the SMRT case in March 2016 where two workers died when they were hit by a train while working on the track. In both cases, despite the multiple causalities, the causes of the accident were not technically complex. The Ministry investigated both accidents thoroughly and liable parties were subsequently taken to task in the courts for their failures.
5 With respect to this tragic accident in Tuas Incineration Plant, investigations so far do not indicate that it is of such a complex nature that warrants the appointment of an inquiry committee. Nevertheless, the Ministry will investigate the case thoroughly as we have always done so.
6 Lastly, I would like to express my condolences to families of the two deceased and wish speedy recovery to the injured worker. I hope our investigation will eventually help to provide some closure for the affected families.