Three dead after Tuas explosion, five in critical condition
Early investigations find combustible dust, or potato starch powder in this case, as cause of deadly explosion
Three workers have died, while five remain in critical condition at the Singapore General Hospital following the explosion at a Tuas industrial building on Wednesday.
The blast occurred at 32E Tuas Avenue 11, which is occupied by Stars Engrg, where the men worked.
The contractor provides a range of services including the maintenance of fire protection systems.
Giving an update to the media at the site of the incident yesterday, commissioner for workplace safety and health at the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) Silas Sng said that as the injuries of the three men who died were extensive, their identities have yet to be ascertained.
"Once they are confirmed, we will inform the families accordingly," he added.
Two workers from an opposite unit, employed by P3 Project, who suffered burns and were taken to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, have been discharged.
On Wednesday, the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) said on Facebook it would be arranging for staff to visit the affected workers and provide them with the necessary assistance.
MWC added: "We are also working closely with MOM to provide other forms of assistance to workers who live and/or work near the accident site. This includes referring any affected workers for stress or emotional counselling to our partners Silver Ribbon and HealthServe."
An MOM spokesman said there were fewer than 20 migrant workers staying on the site where the explosion took place, and separate housing arrangements were being made for the unhurt workers.
The incident also prompted 65 people from the neighbouring units of the affected building to self-evacuate prior to the Singapore Civil Defence Force's arrival.
Preliminary investigations reveal that the accident was a combustible dust explosion, said Mr Sng, who is also divisional director of MOM's occupational safety and health division.
"The dust in this case is potato starch in powder form, which is one of the materials that this particular company uses," he said.
Mr Sng added that the dust can accumulate in the environment especially if the ventilation or housekeeping is inadequate and will explode when it comes into contact with a source of ignition.
MOM, he said, had issued guidance material after a similar explosion years earlier.
"We urge all companies undertaking similar operations involving combustible materials in powder form to review their safety procedures."
He added that investigations are ongoing and declined to comment if there were lapses in safety measures that resulted in Wednesday's incident.
Yesterday's deaths bring the total workplace fatalities to 10 this month, compared with the 30 workplace deaths recorded in the whole of last year.