A Tragic accident claimed the lives of 6 workers and injured 25 others when a tower crane between 50 and 60 meters and weighing 32 tons broke at 2:50 pm on May 1 in Geoje, a southeastern port city in South Korea. The crash occurred at the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard during the construction of an oil platform for French energy company Total's Martin Linge field off Norway.
BWI’s affiliate in South Korea condemned the accident and called for the implementation of fundamental measures to prevent future tragedies. Below is the translation of the official statement form the KFCITU.
KFCITU Statement: A tragic accident at Samsung Heavy Industries calls for the fundamental measures to prevent fatal industrial accidents
On the 127th May Day a tragedy occurred. Six workers died and 25 others were injured after a tower crane with lifting power of 32 tons, which weighs 200 tons itself, collapsed at a Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard. Almost all victims were employees of subcontractors. May Day is a paid holiday in Korea, but workers of subcontractors had to work under the life-threatening environment rather than having a rest with their family.
According to witnesses and media reports, the accident was caused when a gantry crane hit the boom of the tower crane. The number of industrial accidents involving various types of cranes are on the rise as a growing number of cranes have been in use in large construction and shipbuilding sites. Meanwhile, experienced operators of such heavy equipment are disappearing because general contractors tend to rely on subcontractors and do not invest in training and retaining skilled operators. Moreover, shipbuilders are said to have cut down on safety and accident prevention budgets as they are financially struggling these days.
In the forthcoming investigation into the accident, whether various safety devices were working properly should be examined thoroughly. We have received many reports that employers intentionally deactivate the safety devices of tower cranes for smoother operation and, if an accident happens, they blame operators for it. Indeed, a major construction company was found guilty of misappropriating money for safety management and covering up of a fatal industrial accident.
The investigative group into this accident should include unbiased figures recommended by trade unions or civic organizations. The investigative team must examine if Samsung Heavy Industries implemented appropriate safety measures so that an innocent operator will not be falsely blamed. The Ministry of Employment and Labor should have labor inspectors stationed at the site until fundamental accident prevention measures are developed.
Advocate groups for OSH and trade unions nominate worst corporate killers in every April. Hyundai Heavy Industries, another major shipbuilder in South Korea, was selected the worst corporate killer this year. The recent tragedy occurred at Samsung Heavy Industries. The shipbuilding industry is killing workers. We expect the recently introduced bill for the Act on the Punishment of Enterprises that Caused Severe Industrial Accidents will be passed so that the companies of which the sense of safety are dull will be alerted. We wish all the victims rest in peace.