Ministry of Manpower Singapore has started conducting inspections of almost 500 companies for potential combustible dust hazards. This after the accident in Tuas where 3 workers died and 5 are in critical condition from the explosion at the Stars Engineering.
Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo will appoint an inquiry committee to investigate the accident. The last time an inquiry committee was convened for a workplace accident was in 2004, to investigate the MRT worksite incident that led to the collapse of Nicoll Highway.
Speaking in Parliament on his ministry’s budget debate, Ministry Zaqy said the inspection is to ensure that risks are minimised at the relevant workplaces.
Ministry Zaqy also reminded that it was the responsibility of main contractors and subcontractors for workplace safety.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) launched an electronic service in January to make construction companies’ safety records readily available.
In another report preliminary investigations have found that the accident at 32E Tuas Avenue 11 was caused by "a combustible dust explosion as mentioned by Mr Sng Director of the Manpower Ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Division. He added that the dust was in the form of potato starch powder, a material used for production by the company at the site, Stars Engrg. Mr Sng urged companies working with similar combustible materials to review their safety measures to ensure that dust does not accumulate in an enclosed environment.
The last time a combustible dust explosion happened was "many years ago" and guidance documents have been given to the industry, said Mr Sng. The Workplace Safety and Health Council has also called for a safety time-out. The Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman John Ng said the time-out is for employers "to have a look at their business processes" and whether their machinery is well-maintained and correctly used. The time-out can be half or a full day, with the flexibility given to companies to decide on the length.
The WSH commissioner said the call for safety time-out is an important step to remind employers and workers "not to take safety lightly".