One dead in chemical plant gas leak

Photo provided by a member of the public

TAIPEI (CNA) — A worker at a chemical plant in the southern city of Kaohsiung died on Thursday, after a gas leak the previous day.

The worker, surnamed Lee (李), suffered serious chemical burns and inhalation injuries after being exposed to ethylene dichloride, a toxic chemical, in the gas leak that killed one and injured nine others.

Workers at the factory were repairing an ethylene dichloride pump when the incident occurred, according to the Kaohsiung Labor Affairs Bureau.

Lee fell into a coma and was taken to the intensive care unit for emergency treatment but failed to regain consciousness and succumbed to his injuries, Kaohsiung Municipal Siaogang Hospital said.

Two other workers also injured in the accident are still being treated at the hospital, while seven others have been discharged.

Kaohsiung Labor Affairs Bureau has ordered the closure of the plant, which is operated by Taiwan VCM Corporation (TVCM), so an investigation can be conducted into the incident.

The completed investigation report will be sent to the Ministry of Labor, and if TVCM is found to have violated workplace safety regulations, the company will be charged under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the bureau said.

According to the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau, initial tests show that the chemical did not spread outside the plant, but it has still asked TVCM to submit an incident report.

Meanwhile, China General Plastics Corporation (CGPC), the parent company of TVCM, issued a statement on Thursday explaining the reason behind the leak.

A flange gasket, a critical component used to prevent leaks in pipes, was found to be broken and that caused the gas leak, CGPC said.

The company will fix the gasket and step up equipment maintenance in the future, it said.