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Quarry incident raises alarm for work safety

Update: January, 29/2016 - 09:56
When rescue workers retrieved the last body from a collapsed quarry in Yen Lam District, Thanh Hoa Province last Saturday night, it raised the total number of work-related deaths in the central province to 20 since the beginning of 2016. — Photo thanhnien.com.vn

THANH HOA (VNS) — When rescue workers retrieved the last body from a collapsed quarry in Yen Lam District, Thanh Hoa Province last Saturday night, it raised the total number of work-related deaths in the central province to 20 since the beginning of 2016. The quarry collapse itself led to eight fatalities.

The year could not have started worse for workers in the province. On the first day of 2016, eight workers died from carbon monoxide poisoning in a lime kiln accident. Among the victims was a five-month pregnant woman.

Eight days later, another four workers lost their lives after a platform collapsed on them at a construction site in Trung Son District.

The quarry collapse was quickly blamed on heavy rain, not a first in a country where such accidents are often blamed on the weather.

However, according to a a report by the Labour newspaper, human factors played a large part in both the platform and quarry incidents.

Sub-standard maintenance was the main cause of the platform collapse while numerous labour regulation and work safety violations may have contributed to the tragic end the eight workers met in the quarry collapse.

Truong Van Long, a company driver for the quarry who escaped death that day because his car had broken down, said he had worked for more than a year already without a contract. Long and the deceased were considered temporary workers and had therefore never signed work contracts or received safety training. They were poor farmers who lived in isolated mountainous areas who came to the quarry looking for work in-between harvests. They never received any safety instructions or equipment, not even a safety helmet.

Thanh Hoa Province possesses one of the country's largest deposits of natural stone. There are numerous quarries operating in most of the province's districts, but safety supervision has been largely overlooked for years.

Every time an accident occurred it is almost impossible to get straight answers from relevant agencies. Most questions are passed around and receive vague answers, according to Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.

Responsibility is usually placed with the companies who overlook safety regulations and the harsh weather conditions, the paper has said recently.

This kind of response raises question marks over the effectiveness of the agencies that were supposedly charged with the task of ensuring workers' safety. Provincial and local authorities were always quick to provide compensation to the victims' families but perhaps the better approach is to take concrete measures to improve quarry safety and prevent similar accidents — VNS

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