An explosion at one of the diesel fuel storage tanks on the wharf at Matautu-tai, which killed a worker last year, has prompted the government to make changes to the law in a bid to ensure the tragedy is not repeated.
This was revealed by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in Parliament this week when he tabled the Fire and Emergency Service Amendment Bill 2017.
The bill proposes to amend the Fire and Emergency Act 2007 (Act) to provide for hot works permit to avoid and minimise risks of fire and explosions in any hot works.
For section 2 of the Principal Act, it states that “hot works means welding, thermal cutting, heating, brazing, soldering, plasma cutting, grinding, metal spraying and all other works that has potential to generate heat, flames, or sparks that may increase the risk of fire or explosion”.
Section 41(2) of the Principal Act is amended: “To authorize the Samoan Fire and Emergency Services Authority to issue permits for any hot works operations.”
According to Tuilaepa, the explosion prompted Cabinet to really look into the matter.
“The Cabinet and the people were asking why this happened and where was the Fire Emergency Service,” he said.
“An investigation was conducted to determine the cause of the incident and what we found was that there was no safe guard under the fire and emergency Bill to prohibit anyone from doing welding works to these tanks at any time.
“This is very important because we believe that if this incident occurred and it was petrol, it would have caused a lot of damage in Apia as it would have spread immediately.”
Tuilaepa said the government did not take what happened lightly.
“We the Cabinet thought that we should not be taking this lightly or wait around until another incident occurs, but to take into consideration the saying ‘better safe than sorry’.
“This is why the Cabinet as well as the heads of the Fire and Emergency Service looked into a solution to solve such a problem.
“We decided to ban any hot works conducted in these areas unless a permit has been authorized by the fire emergency services.
“Those companies who want to conduct hot works in these areas must put in a proposal to the fire emergency service and then they (F.E.S.A.) will have to conduct a safety investigation whether the work will not affect the public safety.
“When such accidents happen, the government must intervene to come up with plans to ensure that nothing similar will happen in the future.”
Tuilaepa added there are penalties for those who go against the law when it is passed.
“There will be consequences for those who will go against this or found doing unauthorized hot works without the knowledge of the Fire and Emergency Service,” he said.
Member of Parliament from Faleata, Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi questioned whether the amendment of the Bill covered any kind of work.
“We all don’t want what happened last year to happen again but this might affect all the other works that needs to be done every day,” said Leala.
Tuilaepa said the Bill says any kind of work that must be done needs to get authorization from the fire service.
“The Constitution said any kind of work,” said Tuilaepa.
“If we don’t do this then there will come a time that something unexpected and bigger will happen.”
When the explosion went off last year, an employee of Petroleum Products Supplies Limited (P.P.S) who was working on the storage tank was killed immediately.
Another employee of the company was hospitalised.
The blaze caused widespread panic throughout the Apia township where workers, visitors and students were evacuated.
The fire also kicked the Disaster Advisory Committee (D.A.C) into action, calling in their private and public sector members.
The Bill has now been referred to the Parliamentary Committee.