Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Firefighters demand legal reforms for work safety

By Lin Chia-nan  /  Staff reporter

Members of the National Association for Firefighters’ Rights and related labor unions hold a banner outside the Ministry of the Interior in Taipei yesterday as they mourn the deaths of five firefighters in a factory fire in Taoyuan’s Pingjhen District on Saturday.

Photo: CNA

Firefighters and labor rights advocates yesterday called for legal reforms to improve the safety of firefighters in the line of duty, as well as civic participation in a probe into a deadly fire at a printed circuit board factory in Taoyuan on Saturday.

The inferno at the Chin-Poon Industrial Co factory in the city’s Pingjhen District (平鎮) killed five firefighters and two Thai workers, and injured seven people.

Holding a placard that read “System kills” in front of the Ministry of the Interior building in Taipei, the National Association for Firefighters’ Rights and other groups observed a moment’s silence for the victims and put on yellow ribbons in their memory.

Insufficient information on rescue operations and lax control of dangerous chemicals are the main causes of the deaths, the groups said, urging firefighters across the nation to wear yellow ribbons while on duty until the victims’ public funerals end.

The fire was not caused by diesel fuel stored at the factory as some people claimed, but by hydrogen peroxide solutions that produce flammable hydrogen gas, association vice chairman Lee Tsung-wu (李宗吾) said.

Even worse, there were hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid solutions that posed great danger to firefighters at the scene, he said.

The ministry must require factories that store dangerous chemicals to report the location of hazardous chemicals to firefighters and have their disaster prevention plans ready in their security offices near building entrances, he said.

Companies that fail to do so should bear criminal responsibility in addition to paying fines, he added.

The groups demanded that the government allow the association to join the investigation into the fire and allow firefighters to form their own unions.

National Fire Agency Deputy Director Chiang Chi-jen (江濟人) represented the ministry in receiving the groups’ appeal.

The ministry will amend the regulations soon, Chiang said, but did not provide a time frame, despite being pressed by the groups.

As the Taoyuan City Government and the ministry have launched a probe into the fire, whether the association might participate in the probe needs to be deliberated, Chiang said, infuriating the groups.

Whether firefighters can form unions is not for the agency to decide, but it is positive about such a proposal, he said, advising them to refer to the Civil Servant Association Act (公務人員協會法).

The ministry will work with other government agencies to require factory owners to disclose the location of stored chemicals, Minister of the Interior Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) said in a statement later yesterday.

The fallen firefighters will be commemorated in the Martyrs’ Shrine, he added.

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