Company Fined $220,000 for Accident that Left Three Workers with Burn Injuries

Source: August 2019 MOM (Workplace safety and health)

A landscaping contractor was fined $220,000 by the State Courts under section 12(1) of the Workplace Safety and Health Act (“WSHA”) for failing to take adequate safety measures for its work in an underground storage tank at 131 Lorong Semangka.

Case Summary

On 25 July 2016, four workers from the landscaping company were instructed to clean an underground storage tank, a confined space 3.2m deep, that was accessible only via a ladder at the only manhole open at the time.

After one of the workers entered the confined space, his colleague passed him a floodlight and electrical socket and then joined him underground. As the last worker was entering the confined space, one of the workers in the manhole switched on the socket extension to activate the floodlight. This sparked off an explosion which was strong enough to propel one of the workers  and the ladder out of the confined space’s entrance.

The worker who was thrown out of the manhole suffered burns and ran and dived into a nearby pool to ease the burning sensations on his body, while the other workers climbed out of the confined space. All workers in the manhole were conveyed to hospital to treat their injuries.

MOM’s Investigation Findings

MOM’s investigations revealed that the landscaping contractor failed to conduct any risk assessment for the work activities related to the cleaning of the confined space. Critical hazards such as the presence of toxic or flammable gases were not identified nor addressed before the workers entered the confined space to carry out work.

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