Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Work safety at Hanjin Subic shipyard ‘deplorable’

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – A group of workers at a shipyard operated by the Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries Inc. described working conditions in the shipyard as “deadly, deplorable and scandalous.”

The group also took the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to task for allegedly failing to impose sanctions against Hanjin for violating safety measures that led to the deaths of two workers in the last two weeks.

Chester Amparo, secretary general of the Shipyard and Construction Worker’s Association, said Hanjin’s operations would have been suspended had the SBMA imposed penalties based on Hanjin’s alleged repeated safety lapses.

“With the record of deaths, you can imagine how dangerous the working environment is and how irresponsible Hanjin is when it comes to occupational health and safety,” she said. “With more than 10,000 employees, the Hanjin facility does not have a medical facility. The wanton disregard for safety of workers (by Hanjin) is deplorable and gravely scandalous.”

Instant death

Oliver Labay, 32, a welder from Olongapo City, died on Sunday when a one-ton bulkhead fell on him while he was grinding another block bulkhead for a cargo ship.

Initial investigation by the SBMA intelligence and investigation office showed that the metal stopper keeping the bulkhead in place gave way and the bulkhead fell on Labay, killing him instantly.

In a statement, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said: “SBMA’s occupational health and safety office is conducting a full investigation of the recent accidents.”

“We are staying on top of the situation, and the SBMA would get to the bottom of this,” he said.

A Korean foreman, identified as Kim Cheon Sik, ordered Labay to do his job with “no watchman/safety officer at the site to oversee the activity,” according to an SBMA report.

The report also said the “tack welded metal support located at the ground gave in causing the plate to collapse” because “some metal supports were not welded well.”

“Hanjin had no control record for the finished welding materials to ensure its quality and safety,” the report said.

Labay was hired by Subic Ship Builder Corp., a Hanjin contractor, it was learned.

On June 11, a Hanjin crane boom truck hit a service pickup, killing Rafael Careg, one of its passengers. The impact wrecked the truck.

The Inquirer learned that Hanjin has not provided the SBMA with a job safety analysis of tasks considered to be dangerous to its workers.

Hanjin reaction

In an earlier interview, Jeong Sup Shim, HHIC-Philippines Inc. president, said the company regretted the accidents.

“In every accident, Hanjin takes final responsibility even though it was done by our supplier or subcontractor,” he said.

Pyeong Jong Yu, Hanjin general manager, said the accidents could be attributed to human error. “But we are strictly implementing safety programs,” he said. By Robert Gonzaga - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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