The Ministry of Labor (MOL) is within a week to open an occupational safety investigation into golf ball manufacturer Launch Technologies Co and its parent company following a fire at its Pingtung County factory that killed at least seven people.
Launch Technologies and its parent company, Advanced International Multitech Co, would face stiff punishments if they contravened any occupational safety regulations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in a statement yesterday.
The Pingtung County factory where the fire started on Friday evening had been found to have contravened occupational safety rules in the past, according to MOL records, raising questions about whether the incident might have been tied to the company’s practices.
Photo: Lee Hui-chou, Taipei Times
Of the seven people who lost their lives, four were firefighters and three were factory workers.
Three factory workers were still unaccounted for as of press time last night. Another 98 people were injured, some seriously.
The cause of the fire and subsequent explosions remain under investigation.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Because the factory was in an export processing zone supervised by the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), the MOL in 2018 authorized the MOEA to start conducting occupational safety and health inspections there.
A total of 18 inspections have been conducted since, with three of them uncovering breaches of safety regulations resulting in fines totaling NT$200,000 (US$6,226).
Eight inspections of employment conditions were conducted separately, with three of those resulting in fines totaling NT$300,000, the OSHA said.
During a plenary session at the Legislative Yuan yesterday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) said the Launch Technologies plant had been described as a “sweatshop” with abominable working conditions.
Citing court rulings, Wang also accused the company of requiring its workers to work more hours than permitted.
Minister of Labor Hsu Ming-chun (許銘春) said that rescue efforts were the top priority for the time being, adding that by law that the MOL and MOEA would coordinate inspections of the company’s factories once rescue efforts had concluded.
OSHA Chief Secretary Wan Jung-fu (萬榮富) said the MOL was waiting for the fire bureau’s report on the incident.
The report was expected to decide whether the employer would be subject to punishment for the fire and whether prosecutors would launch a follow-up investigation.
The MOL would ask Launch Technologies to provide assistance and compensation to the affected workers and their families, Wan added.
The ministry would also work with Pingtung County authorities to take care of migrant workers who were affected by the fire and inform the Taiwan offices of the countries where they came from of the situation, Wan said.
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