SembMarine's Jurong Shipyard fined $400,000 for safety lapses that saw 89 injured when oil rig tilted

Eighty-nine workers were injured when the oil rig at Jurong Shipyard lurched to one side on Dec 3, 2012, with some jumping into the sea from three storeys up the three-legged structure. There were more than 1,000 workers on the rig, which is used for
Eighty-nine workers were injured when the oil rig at Jurong Shipyard lurched to one side on Dec 3, 2012, with some jumping into the sea from three storeys up the three-legged structure. There were more than 1,000 workers on the rig, which is used for offshore drilling.FILE PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - Jurong Shipyard, a unit of Sembcorp Marine, was fined a record $400,000 on Thursday (Nov 9) over a 2012 incident in which an oil rig tilted, injuring 89 people.

The lives of 1,000 on board the rig were also put at risk in the accident, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday.

This is the second time a record fine has been imposed for a breach of the Workplace Safety and Health Act. In 2017, SMRT Trains was fined $400,000 for lapses that resulted in the deaths of two trainees in 2016.

In the Dec 3, 2012 incident, said to be one of the worst industrial accidents in recent times, the rig, the Noble Regina Allen, suddenly tilted during testing of its jack-up system. 

About 1,000 workers from various subcontractors engaged by Jurong Shipyard had to evacuate through only one escape gangway, resulting in some workers jumping into the sea to escape. A large number of workers suffered injuries, with 89 workers taken to various hospitals for treatment.

MOM said its investigation revealed that the sudden tilt of the rig was due to the forward leg motor not being able to hold the weight of the hull when the brakes were released. In addition, the jacking control system was not designed to be fail-safe.

Jurong Shipyard also failed to take adequate safety measures for the testing of the jack-up system of the oil rig, by not undertaking adequate risk assessment, not implementing control measures in safe work procedures and not providing adequate means of escape.

“The heavy fine reflected the very serious safety breaches by Jurong Shipyard that had put at risk the lives of so many workers,” said Mr Chan Yew Kwong, MOM’s director of occupational safety and health inspectorate.

He noted that as the principal contractor, Jurong Shipyard had the duty to plan, manage and monitor the construction of projects to ensure work was performed in a safe manner. This included emergency arrangements and procedures.

Seeking a deterrent fine of $400,000, Ministry of Manpower prosecutor Mohd Rizal said that the company’s culpability and potential harm were high.

Jurong Shipyard, he said, had failed to provide adequate risk assessment, implement control measures in safe work procedures and provide adequate means of escape during an emergency.

The company’s lawyer, Mr Thomas Tan, in asking for a $100,000 fine, argued that his client’s culpability was “medium’’.

The company regrets the unfortunate accident, he said. After the accident, Jurong Shipyard undertook a comprehensive safety review and steps to mitigate the effect of the accident and to prevent further similar accidents, he added.

District Judge Adam Nakhoda allowed the company, which has had 14 previous convictions since 2002, to pay the fine in a week’s time. The maximum punishment is a $500,000 fine.

In a separate, tragic sequel to the accident a few weeks later, a worker helping to right the leaning rig slipped and fell.

Mr Teo Kok Kee, 50, was taken to hospital but died of a heart attack. He was an employee of Belfor Asia, a disaster recovery and property restoration company that had been hired by Jurong Shipyard to perform recovery work on the rig.