Hanwha Ocean hit for first fatal industrial accident since acquisition

Hanwha Ocean is facing a setback in its production and a dispute with its labor union, after a 27-year-old subcontracted worker died last week from an explosion at the shipbuilder’s shipyard on Geoje Island, South Gyeongsang Province, according to industry officials, Tuesday.

The worker, who began working at the shipyard last March, reportedly died in the hospital after he was injured in an explosion at around 3 p.m. on Friday, during grinding work at a rudder factory.

This was the first fatal industrial accident at the shipyard, since Hanwha Group’s acquisition of the shipbuilder, which was previously called Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME). The company expressed its condolences immediately after the worker’s death, promising every effort to find the cause of the accident and prevent similar problems.

Hanwha Ocean’s unionized workers, however, asked the authorities to arrest the executive who is managing the company. They claimed that management has been desperate to resume operations since the latest accident, rather than making efforts to prevent similar accidents.

“Since the Serious Accidents Punishment Act (SAPA) took effect, five fatal industrial accidents have happened at DSME, so we hoped that the shipyard would be safer after Hanwha’s acquisition seven months ago,” a union representative said at a press conference, Tuesday.

The law, which was implemented in January 2022, states that a company’s CEO can be sent to jail if a serious worksite accident occurs if the company has not taken sufficient safety precautions.

The union pointed out that a reorganization of the company’s health and safety team during the sale procedure in 2022 disrupted the team’s ability to deal with health and safety issues.

“The labor ministry should order Hanwha Ocean to cease all operations at its worksites nationwide and should carry out a special labor inspection of the company,” the union said. “Hanwha Ocean should allow the union to join the inspection of its health and safety systems and reinforce safety managers at workplaces.”

After the press conference in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, the workers met with the head of the labor ministry’s regional office.

The labor ministry has begun looking into whether Hanwha Ocean violated the SAPA. It also ordered the shipbuilder to halt its operations, Monday, to find out the cause of the accident.

“Our company immediately reported the accident to the police and the labor ministry,” Hanwha Ocean said in its regulatory filing. “We will resume production once we find out the cause of the accident and come up with countermeasures.”

Yangzijiang Shipbuilding

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