Fluoride Action Network

Filipino community calls for safety of its factory workers in Taiwan

Source: Focus Taiwan | August 31st, 2019 | By William Yen
Location: Taiwan
Industry type: Electronics Industry

Taipei, Aug. 31 (CNA) The Filipino community called Saturday for factories in Taiwan to provide safer working environments for its workers in the wake of the recent death of a Filipina from a chemical spill this week.

The victim, identified by local media as 29-year-old Deserie Castro Tagubasi, died Wednesday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital after suffering chemical burns when a container of a mixture containing hydrofluoric acid fell and splattered against her legs.

Tagubasi was on duty at the time of the accident at her place of employment, an electronics plant in Jhunan Science Park in Miaoli operated by LED maker Tyntek Corp., according to local media.

Fidel A. Macauyag, labor attaché and director of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Taichung, told CNA that he has faith in the Taiwanese investigators and will also follow up on their progress with the case after the victim’s body has been returned to the Philippines.

He said he will coordinate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the Ministry or Labor (MOL) next week.

He also expressed hope that an in-depth investigation will be carried out by the police and relevant labor authorities in Taiwan to avoid any repeat occurrences.

“The government can implement regulations to prevent similar accidents,” he said. “I hope that something can be done to properly protect not only foreign but local workers.

If the employer is found to be guilty due to negligence then he or she should be held liable, Macauyag said.

While the incident may be considered to be an isolated case, Macauyag said there are still questions to be asked regarding the safety provided by the company after he talked with some of the victim’s workmates.

“Apparently, very corrosive chemicals are used to clean metals and electronic parts, while the workers are only provided with an apron to serve as protective gear that covers only the front of the body from the upper chest to the knees,” he said.

“This is not enough. I think that if one is working with these chemicals, they should be fully protected and neutralizing agents should be readily available on the premises in the case of accidents,” he said.

According to the workers who provided first aid to the victim, there was no medicine or chemical readily available to neutralize the effects of the corrosive acid, he said.

A former employee of the company, who wished not to be identified, confirmed what Macauyag told CNA.

“We only wore a lab gown type of clothing which covers just below the knee. When we handled chemicals we just added an apron, two thick facial masks, headgear and optional goggles,” she said.

The company also failed to provide the foreign workers with proper safety education, such as first aid or formal training about what to do in the event of an emergency, she said.

Another Filipina, who also declined to be identified, told CNA that she is also assigned by her factory, which also makes LEDs, to clean machinery and make products using the chemical Toluene.

“It can burn the skin and if you don’t notice that it has got on your skin, it will become itchy and red,” she said.

In her company, only Filipino workers handle these chemicals, she added.

In response to why only Filipinos are assigned this particular job, she said that “Filipinos don’t complain.”

“I wish that the labor safety authorities would inspect each company for the safety of migrant workers,” she said.

The Ministry of Labor cannot be reached for comment on Saturday.

A day after Tagubasi’s death, the ministry’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sent personnel to her factory to conduct safety inspection.

The ministry has demanded that the factory provide its workers with full body protective clothing and has ordered a partial suspension of factory operations until the factory is able to ensure safe handling of hydrofluoric acid, according to local media reports.

*Original article online at http://focustaiwan.tw/news/afav/201908310013.aspx