Fire safety lapses and outdated methods likely causes of SingTel fire

Fire safety lapses and outdated methods likely causes of SingTel fire

The findings showed that the fire in an underground cable chamber at the Bukit Panjang exchange on Oct 9 was started when an employee used an unauthorised blowtorch to heat one of the lead seals that keep water and gas out of the chamber at the points where cables exit. The committee learnt that the employee, who was a 30-year veteran with the company, had forgotten to bring the required blowtorch which produced a 450-degree flame and instead borrowed another from a contractor, which had a flame twice as hot.

Get the full story from The Straits Times.

Here is the full news release from SingTel:

SingTel Board releases Board Committee of Inquiry Report on the Bukit Panjang fire

- BCOI outlines actions to enhance fire safety practices and awareness and improve network resiliency

- SingTel accepts findings and commits to implement recommendations

SINGAPORE - The SingTel Board has accepted and endorsed the findings and recommendations of the independent Board Committee of Inquiry (BCOI) on the fire at the Bukit Panjang exchange on 9 October 2013.

The BCOI's findings and recommendations covered three main areas: fire prevention in exchanges, network reliability and resiliency, as well as public relations and communications. The BCOI was assisted by independent technical consultant, Bell Labs, and communications consultant, Bell Pottinger.

Following a full investigation, the BCOI concluded that the most probable cause of the fire was hot works carried out during maintenance activities in the cable chamber. An unauthorised blowtorch was used to heat and shrink a lead-based sealant to seal a cable duct. The employee carrying out the hot works did not have the company issued blowtorch equipment with him and had borrowed the unauthorised blowtorch from a contractor. The flame of the unauthorised blowtorch was almost twice as hot as that of a company issued SingTel blowtorch. The use of the unauthorised blowtorch most likely caused localised overheating, resulting in a slowburning fire in the cable chamber.

"While the fire was due mainly to human error, the inquiry uncovered shortcomings in fire safety practices that require immediate rectification," said Chairman of the BCOI, Mr Bobby Chin, "The technical expert has, however, affirmed that the network has a high degree of resiliency. SingTel should continue to build on this."

SingTel is committed to strengthening its network to enhance Singapore's status as a leading financial and business hub. "We recognise the impact of the incident on businesses and customers. The BCOI has given us a critical review of our operations, which will steer and motivate us to raise our standards. We will work with the industry to define a national engagement framework for greater collaboration to ensure that Singapore's telecoms infrastructure remains resilient even during major network incidents," said Mr Simon Israel, Chairman of SingTel.

SingTel management has accepted the BCOI's findings and is committed to implementing the recommendations. "We take full responsibility for the incident. We recognise the inconvenience it caused our customers and the public, and we are sorry for this. The BCOI review offers a valuable opportunity to take a step back and comprehensively assess our network design and operations. We want to assure customers that it is our top priority to prevent a recurrence and we have started work on the enhancements," said Ms Chua Sock Koong, Group CEO of SingTel.

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