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Factory under probe after death of migrant worker: labor official

2019/09/03 20:50:35

Taipei, Sept. 3 (CNA) An electronics plant in Miaoli is being investigated in the wake of a recent chemical spill that resulted in the death of a Filipina worker, an official at the Ministry of Labor (MOL) said Tuesday.

The probe will examine the details of the accident and issues related to training and safety at the factory, where 29-year-old Deserie Castro Tagubasi suffered fatal burns on Aug. 28 when she accidentally dropped a small container of hydrofluoric acid that she was carrying.

The acid splattered her legs, causing burns that resulted in her death later in the day at Taipei Veterans General Hospital, where she had been transferred from a hospital Miaoli.

Hydrofluoric acid, which is used at the electronics plant to clean circuit boards, is highly corrosive and can cause death on contact with the skin.

While Tagubasi was wearing protective clothing at the time, it was "inadequate" as it did not completely cover her legs, Yeh Pei-chieh (葉沛杰), a section chief in the Division of Planning and Occupational Health in the MOL's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), told CNA.

"According to regulations, a proper impermeable whole-body garment that protects against hazardous materials should have been worn," Yeh said.

An initial investigation found that such garments were available but were not being used at the electronics plant, which is operated by LED maker Tyntek Corp at Jhunan Science Park in Miaoli, according to Yeh.

However, the OSHA is conducting a more comprehensive investigation and will issue a report when it is completed, he said.

"The investigation will take about a month and the report will also be submitted to the judiciary departments," Yeh said.

A former employee at the factory, who asked not to be named, told CNA that only foreign workers at the plant handle hydrofluoric acid.

They are given a gown, an apron, headgear and optional goggles, the former worker said.

Meanwhile, operations at the factory have been partly suspended until it can ensure safe handling of hydrofluoric acid, according to Yeh.

He said the plant will have to submit a report to the OSHA for review before it can resume normal operations.

The OSHA is currently also planning to inspect other factories that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals, to check whether they are providing proper safety training to their workers, Yeh said.

"In our routine inspections of factories, especially optoelectronic plants, we usually find that they all have the required protective gear such as safety suits, goggles and face masks,"Yeh said. "But having it is one thing and using it is another. So we are aiming to inform workers about the real danger of the chemicals they handle."

Between 2016 and 2018, two factory workers died and 11 were injured in accidents involving chemicals or acids in Taiwan, according to Yeh.

(By William Yen)
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