Samsung slammed for toxic gas response
By Kim Young-won, SEOULThe Korea Herald/Asia News Network--Samsung Electronics came under fire for its clumsy response to a toxic gas leak in its semiconductor line, which killed one subcontract worker and injured four others on Monday.
January 31, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
The world's largest technology company was accused of failing to take proper safety measures and even attempting to conceal the incident to minimize damage to its reputation.
The plant is located less than 4 kilometers from Dongtan New Town in Hwaseong City and Suwon City, where 1.3 million residents live in both areas.
The world's largest memory chip-maker allegedly delayed reporting the gas leak accident to police.
Some 2 to 10 liters of a 50-percent solution of hydrofluoric acid leaked at 1:22 p.m. Sunday, said police, quoting Samsung officials.
The repair work on the pipe, which was thought to have a broken safety valve, started at 11 p.m.
Allegedly, Samsung Electronics and the subcontract maintenance firm did not report the leakage to the government of Gyeonggi province nor properly plug the holes in the pipe. They filled the cracks with a mere plastic bag before the repair work started.
“(We) first judged the amount of leakage was infinitesimal, so plugged the hole with the plastic bag,” said Lee Jong-chae, director of the maintenance firm STI Co., Ltd.
The repair work ended at 4:59 a.m. on Monday, according to the police.
The five maintenance workers felt pain in their throat and chest in the morning and were brought to hospitals.
The workers reportedly had to spend four more hours in ambulances being sent back and forth from hospital to hospital while Samsung was allegedly trying to hide the accident from reporters.
One worker surnamed Park was dead at around 1 p.m.
Samsung initially blamed the death on his violation of safety rules. The company said the deceased worker was exposed to the toxic chemical since he did not wear a chemical protection suit. But the bereaved family countered the claim, which then forced the company to later admit that he wore the gear.
“When the amount of the leakage was small, they did not wear the protection suits, but they wore them when the situation was getting worse,” said an uncle of Park, adding the family would not hold the funeral until the cause and circumstances of his death are confirmed.
The firm reported the death of the worker at 2:15 p.m. on Monday to the police and at 2:40 p.m. to the Gyeonggi Provincial Government.