Another incident at the nation’s largest petrochemical complex highlights the urgent need for a law on occupational health and safety, a rights activist said yesterday.
Tsai Chung-yueh (蔡中岳), a research fellow at Citizen of the Earth, Taiwan, said it saddened him to see that proposed amendments to the Labor Safety and Health Act (勞工安全衛生法) were not passed during the last session of the outgoing legislature. The failure of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-dominated Legislative Yuan to enact the amendments has dashed workers’ hopes of full protection against vocational risks and hazards, Tsai said.
In the latest in a series of industrial incidents in recent months, a pipeline leakage occurred on Monday at an oil refinery in the sixth naphtha cracking plant complex run by Formosa Plastics Group (FPG) in Mailiao (麥寮), Yunlin County. Pungent black smoke spewed from the plant, reportedly because of the oil leak.
Meanwhile, Taiwan Labor Front secretary-general Son Yu-lien (孫友聯) said the number of deaths in Taiwan from occupational diseases and hazards could be as high as five per day. The number of workplace injuries that result in permanent disability is about 20 per day, but there are no effective legal protections for these workers, he added.
Son asked whether the series of incidents was not enough to warn legislators that the nation’s workers are constantly exposed to industrial hazards and that there is an urgent need for a better law to protect workers’ health and safety.
The FPG’s four major subsidiaries — Formosa Plastics Corp, Formosa Chemicals and Fibre Corp, Nan Ya Plastics Corp and Formosa Petrochemical Corp — reported a combined business turnover of NT$1.461 trillion (US$48.7 billion) for last year. This represented a year-on-year increase of 1.7 percent. Their pre-tax profit for last year fell 32.7 percent year-on-year to NT$129.5 billion.
The group attributed the small turnover in growth and profit drop mainly to the suspension of its factory operations at the Mailiao complex and shrinking demand from downstream manufacturing industries caused by China’s tighter monetary policies and the economic slowdown in the US and Europe.