Mon, Feb 20, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Labor council seeks to lower job fatality and disability rates by 20 percent each

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A man gulps down alcohol while a figure representing death looks at him in a skit presented as part of a press conference held yesterday by the Council of Labor Affairs to highlight the importance of preventing occupational injuries.


To 67-year-old well driller Liu Ching-te (劉敬德), Sept. 29 last year seemed the least likely day for any accident to happen: The weather was clear and 99 percent of the construction work was done.

Tragedy, nevertheless, struck when Liu was ordered to finish up some work at the hollow on the ground. Unbeknownst to him, the moldboards were not able to contain the dirt on the sides anymore because days of rain had saturated the ground with water. Just as Liu reached the bottom of the hollow, the boards gave way and he was buried alive under 9m of mud.

"It was easy to choose to die rather than to live then," Liu said.

Liu's cousin, Chang Tien-tsu (張天賜), tried to save him by jumping into the hollow himself. He, too, was buried because of a second mudslide.

Luckily, the breathing skills Liu acquired as a diver helped him survive 26 hours underground before a rescue squad located both him and his cousin.

The accident attracted a lot of media attention, and was instrumental in the Council of Labor Affairs' (CLA) announcement of a plan that aims to lower both the rate of job fatalities and disabling accidents by 20 percent each within two years.

Specifically, the ministry said yesterday that it would seek to reduce the number of work-related deaths to 60 people and accidents resulting in disabilities to 700.

The plan targets jobs that have higher death and disability risks or may be violating safety regulations.

The plan will also focus on lowering eight types of common occupational injuries, including getting compressed by objects or caught in running equipment (62.28 percent), falling to a lower level (9.61 percent), cut or bruised by objects (5.29 percent), falling on the same level (3.34 percent), being struck by flying objects (2.96 percent) or falling objects (2.14 percent) and collision (2.44 percent).

Minister of Labor Affairs Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said yesterday that Liu's story and reports of other accidents have highlighted the importance of this issue.

"They [occupational deaths and injuries] can be prevented and cannot be blamed on fate," Lee said, adding that a safe environment for workers can be created through changes in construction design and government regulations.

In a written statement, Lee said the council originally planned to achieve the 20 percent goal within four years. However, he said he believed this is an urgent matter and needs to be accomplished within two years instead.

Liu was chosen as the "ambassador" of industrial safety for the plan. His personal story will be printed on a pamphlet and distributed en masse to companies and organizations. The government has reportedly said to have budgeted NT$900 million (approximately NT$27.2 million) for the project.

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