Gas company admits to safety lapses in fatal 2015 explosion
In 2015, explosions at gas manufacturing firm Leeden National Oxygen's Jurong laboratory killed one of their chemists and injured at least seven others.
Yesterday, the firm and its chief executive Steven Tham Weng Cheong, 69, each pleaded guilty to an offence under the Workplace Safety and Health Act for failing to take necessary measures to ensure the safety and health of their workers.
The initial blast at the Tanjong Kling Road premises on Oct 12, 2015, killed chemist Krysten Lim Siaw Chian, 30, who was performing an analysis on a cylinder containing a combustible mix of methane, nitrogen and oxygen, and it led to a series of fires and explosions.
She had become a Singapore citizen a month before, and had just returned to work from maternity leave.
Her charred remains, found on six occasions over two months, were identified using her infant daughter's DNA.
A coroner's inquiry in 2016 ruled her death as a tragic industrial misadventure.
The inquiry found the regulatory valve attached to the gas cylinder she was using was faulty.
A joint had been welded unevenly - there was not supposed to be a welded component in the first place - and this caused flammable gas to leak and ignite, causing the cylinder to explode. The court heard yesterday that the valve was modified, but Leeden was unable to trace the supplier.
The amount of flammable gases stored in the lab also exceeded legal limits.
Other lapses included failing to ensure adequate risk assessment and failing to establish adequate safe work procedures.
Manpower Ministry prosecutor Erdiana Hazlina said Tham was more focused on business and finances after a 2014 merger and did not review safety procedures.
Asking for a $380,000 fine for Leeden and a $50,000 fine for Tham, she said the lapses were highly negligent and there was a clear causal link between them and the death and injuries.
Defence counsel Thomas Sim argued for lower fines. He said the firm admitted there was room for improvement and adopted comprehensive corrective measures. The lapses were mostly isolated and not systemic failures, he added.
District Judge Adam Nakhoda adjourned the case till Jan 12. - KOK YUFENG