THIS HAS always been the guiding principle of the PAP Government in the last six decades: When things go wrong, be open and honest about it. Full investigation. Full disclosure. Look at how we can learn from it and do better. Especially when it comes to public and workplace safety.
Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu made this clear today (Jan 9) in her Ministerial Statement to Parliament about the Tuas South Incineration Plant explosion two Septembers ago. The incident claimed the lives of two National Environment Agency (NEA) officers and injured another two Septembers ago
Standard legal procedures against prejudicing ongoing court proceedings only allow sharing limited information about the incident, said Minister Fu. However, she noted that the follow-up action to the incident included cooperating with many independent and external parties.
“Immediately after the incident. MOM [Ministry of Manpower], SCDF [Singapore Civil Defence Force] and other technical agencies carried out their independent investigations. NEA fully cooperated with these investigations,” stated Minister Fu.
Source: MCI, Teo Chee Hean / Facebook
An external licensed engineer extensively tested the explosion site post-incident. These findings, and external technical advice on the explosion’s likely cause, were shared with NEA’s internal Investigation Panel and NEA’s parent Ministry, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE). Investigators from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) also heard these findings.
“Workplace safety and health, or WSH, is a top priority for my Ministry and statutory boards, including NEA, to keep our operational and frontline workers safe,” said Minister Fu as part of her emphasis on external investigations.
Supporting the bereaved families and strengthening WSH practices
“We have been assisting the families [of the deceased] from medical expenses to workman’s compensation. And also psychological and well-being support,” said Minister Fu when MP Poh Li San (Sembawang GRC) asked her about the help rendered to the families of the NEA officers affected.
“The families have suffered very regrettable and deep losses. And our colleagues have been longtime colleagues with these two officers as well. So, psychological support and also just being there for the families has continued until today,” added Minister Fu.
For his part, MP Melvin Yong (Radin Mas SMC) wanted to know if WSH officers had done risk assessments over operating an incineration plant and also if the plant’s key managers were WSH trained.
“We do have dedicated staff undertaking WSH responsibilities. And also we have taken steps to continue to strengthen WSH practices including in the area of risk assessment, and we will work very closely with the industry, the private operators together with MOM to ensure compliance with existing laws and regulations,” said Minister Fu.
One main example of this strengthening involves NEA taking the bizSAFE Level 3 Risk Management Audit later this year;. This thorough external Audit recognises that NEA has conducted risk assessments for all its work activities and processes according to strict WSH (Risk Management) Regulations.
Source: WSH Council
So here are the NEA and the MSE: actively taking steps to be open for external, unbiased scrutiny and not sweeping issues under the carpet. It is them helping affected families, and working with the law (and keeping up-to-standard) so that issues get resolved. Afterall, every worker deserves to return home safely.