Tue, Apr 16, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Firm’s cut-backs on radiation detectors fatal: legislator

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung, right, speaks at a news conference in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Hsieh Chun-lin, Taipei Times

Three employees died of cancer within six months of when a non-destructive testing company in Taichung allegedly prevented workers from wearing radiation detectors in a bid to cut costs, New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸) said yesterday, urging the Atomic Energy Council to crack down on companies that breach radiation safety regulations.

So far, four employees — or one-fifth of its inspectors who worked around ionizing radiation — have been diagnosed with cancer, Hung said.

Three of them passed away in their 30s or 40s, and one is currently being treated for critical health problems, she added.

Investigating the case showed that the company has allegedly been preventing employees from wearing radiation detectors to save money and avoid being liable for occupational illnesses, she said.

In 2008, the company was fined NT$500,000 by the Atomic Energy Council for failing to provide detectors to employees and failing to monitor radiation levels in the workplace, she said.

“After fining the company, why did the council not do any follow-up inspections? That is something that is incomprehensible,” she said. “If it did follow up, why does it know so little about the situation?”

An examination of the council’s records showed that it has only taken action against four companies who breached radiation safety regulations, she said, adding that the last fine was meted out in 2012.

An analysis of data from all contractors at nuclear power plants that require employees to work around ionizing radiation showed that 79 of the companies, or nearly 70 percent, could not provide health check records for their employees, she said.

“As the regulatory authority, the council has displayed a very passive attitude, and shows little knowledge about the health and workplace safety of people working around radiation,” she said.

She urged the council to increase the frequency of inspection at companies where employees work near ionizing radiation and called on it to crack down on firms found to have breached safety regulations.

Under the Ionizing Radiation Protection Act (游離輻射防護法), employers who fail to conduct regular health checkups for employees can be fined NT$40,000 to NT$250,000, she said.

Companies who fail to monitor radiation levels can be fined NT$100,000 to NT$500,000, she said, adding that she would propose amendments to the act that would raise both fines.

The council in a statement released later yesterday said that it would increase the frequency of inspections at companies and that it is investigating the case in Taichung with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Although the firm said it has provided radiation detectors and health checks as the law stipulates, the council would mete out fines if any breaches of the law are discovered, it said, adding that it has conduct annual inspections at the company.

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