Stop-work order at Shell unit since Aug still in force

MOM says probe into fire at Pulau Bukom unit which led to the order is still ongoing

Petroleum giant Shell is still the subject of a stop-work order a month after a fire at one of its units in Pulau Bukom injured six workers.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued a stop-work order on Aug 25, telling it to halt all hot work in relation to its turnaround activities at its worksite at Pulau Bukom. "The stop-work order will be lifted once Shell has demonstrated that all hot work to be carried out has been made safe," an MOM spokesman said yesterday, adding that investigations are ongoing.

The fire which occurred on Aug 21 was in a section of one of the units under scheduled maintenance at the Shell manufacturing site. It was put out by the site's first emergency responders within an hour, the company said.

Six workers with burns were ferried off the island to Singapore General Hospital. Two were warded in the Intensive Care Unit. The four not in intensive care have been discharged from hospital.

Shell did not give further details on the workers' status, citing their privacy, though it said it has offered them counselling support.

"We continue to follow their progress and treatment closely and are working with our contractor to ensure all possible support and assistance are rendered to the injured workers and their families," a Shell spokesman said yesterday. "This includes counselling support to the injured workers."

Some employee groups have not been able to contact the workers, who are from a contractor.

Singapore Shell Employees' Union executive secretary Ang Hin Kee said the union could not get the personal contact details of the workers as they are not Shell employees. But it is working with Shell to look at any safety gaps which can be better addressed. "Workplace safety pertains to both employers and employees. Employers have a role to play. Workers also need to observe guidelines such as wearing safety boots, rules on working at heights and reporting when they are fatigued."

The Migrant Workers' Centre has not been able to speak personally to the workers in intensive care, according to its executive director Bernard Menon. But he added that he was reassured as Shell's human resources personnel had contacted the centre to look into the most appropriate aftercare facilities for the injured staff.

Despite the work stoppage, Shell said there is no expected disruption to its production rates as all other units not undergoing scheduled maintenance at the Pulau Bukom manufacturing site continue to operate normally.

Singapore Refining Company is also closing a crude distillation unit and a petrol-making unit for around four weeks starting early next month for maintenance, Reuters reported yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'Stop-work order at Shell unit since Aug still in force'. Print Edition | Subscribe