Fatal explosion of Tuas: company, director and production manager charged with workplace safety violations

SINGAPORE — A company that operated an industrial plant in Tuas, where three workers were killed and seven others injured in an explosion and fire last year, was charged Thursday (July 21) with workplace safety violations.

This came several months after an investigative commission uncovered possible criminal conduct by Stars Engrg, its one-time manager Chua Xing Da, and production manager Lwin Moe Tun.

Chua, a 38-year-old Singaporean, and Lwin Moe Tun, a 32-year-old Burmese, were also charged on Tuesday with workplace safety offences.

They are also charged with obstruction of justice, in connection with Lwin Moe Tun’s deletion of WhatsApp messages between him and one of the workers who died in the blast on February 24 last year.

The explosion and fire at the industrial building at 32 Tuas Avenue 11 killed three workers who suffered 90% burns: Subbaiyan Marimuthu, 38, from India, as well as Anisuzzaman Md, 29, and Shohel Md, 23, both from Bangladesh.

The site was used as a workshop for the production of fireproof insulating envelopes.

Seven other workers – five from Stars Engrg and two from a nearby unit – were injured in the crash. They suffered severe burns, including burns that covered 35-58% of their total body surface area.

The Board of Inquiry, which released its findings after a week-long hearing into the explosion, found that a mixer had exploded primarily due to the company’s failure and neglect of its duty to ensure its safe use.

This caused excessive pressure on the machine’s oil jacket, causing mechanical failure and rupture of welds.

The machine was used to mix water, potato starch and other materials to make fireclay, a key part of the insulating jacket.

The committee said Stars Engrg failed to properly investigate these incidents and allowed the machine to continue to operate, despite “multiple warning signs that the machine may pose a safety and health risk, such as oil leaks and fires”.

Chua apparently installed and commissioned the mixer purchased from a Chinese online retailer Alibaba, despite its insufficient knowledge of how the mixer should be used safely.

He was also the person in charge of instructing the workers of Stars Engrg on the handling of the mixing machine, despite having insufficient knowledge.