$250k fine for firm over fatal blaze

Recycling firm convicted last year of failing to ensure safety and health of its employees

The blaze in Tuas Avenue 10 on June 24, 2017, resulted in the death of Chinese national Chen Qiu, 39, who died from sepsis and multi-organ failure due to extensive burns.
The blaze in Tuas Avenue 10 on June 24, 2017, resulted in the death of Chinese national Chen Qiu, 39, who died from sepsis and multi-organ failure due to extensive burns.PHOTO: SINGAPORE CIVIL DEFENCE FORCE/FACEBOOK

A recycling company was fined $250,000 yesterday over a fire and an explosion in Tuas which occurred on June 24, 2017, and led to the death of one of its workers.

Chinese national Chen Qiu, 39, died from sepsis and multi-organ failure due to extensive burns.

His colleague, Mr Jiang Yongteng, 27, who is also a Chinese national, suffered second-degree burns but survived.

Chuan Eng Leong Trading was convicted last year of failing to ensure the safety and health of its employees. The court heard that it had failed to conduct comprehensive safety checks and risk assessments.

Among other failings, it was found to have ignored written warnings on the canisters that read, "Do not puncture or burn can even when empty".

Investigations found that the canisters contained flammable gases like butane, isobutene and propane. Such gases have low flash points and become potent fuels that can be easily ignited.

The two Chinese nationals were working on factory premises owned by scrap metal company Tai Hing Metal Ind in Tuas Avenue 10 shortly before the incident in July 2017.

The pair had been tasked to sort and compress the canisters and other scrap material into compact square bales for easier handling.

Four of Chuan Eng Leong Trading's workers, including Mr Chen and Mr Jiang, were working near the baler machine, using it to compress around 200kg, or 10 bales, of aerosol canisters. They were compressing the 11th bale of deodorant canisters when a fire broke out, followed by an explosion.

The blaze engulfed the factory and the surrounding dumpsters.

Investigations showed that Chuan Eng Leong Trading had ignored the written warnings on the deodorant canisters.

Workers were also instructed to continue with their work, while clear warning signs were neglected, including a strong aromatic scent emitting from the aerosol canisters that indicated a build-up of flammable gases.

Instead, Chuan Eng Leong Trading instructed its workers to position fans to blow away the scent from the machine area, and to place a fire extinguisher near the baler machine.

As a result of the fire and the explosion, both Mr Chen and Mr Jiang sustained second-degree burns and were taken to Singapore General Hospital, where Mr Chen died on June 29, 2017. Mr Jiang was warded in SGH's burns unit and subsequently discharged on Aug 7, 2017.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2021, with the headline '$250k fine for firm over fatal blaze'. Subscribe