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26 January 2009

Korean national dies in Hanjin shipyard accident

A Korean national was killed in an accident at the shipbuilding facility of Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil) early on Sunday, after he was hit by a forklift while playing with a basketball during the midnight break time.

Initial information from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) identified the fatality as Choi Dong Baek, 51, who worked as a foreman for Greenbeach Power Corp., a subcontractor of HHIC-Phil.

According to SBMA investigators, Choi was run over by a forklift operated by a Filipino employee, who was identified as Menti Dacanay, a rigger working for Freeport I-Tech Corp., also a subcontracting firm.

The incident happened at about 12:50 a.m. at the facility's Assembly Shop C in an open area being used as a basketball court by workers during break time.

The victim was brought to a hospital in San Marcelino, Zambales, but he expired at about 1:30 a.m.

Investigators said Choi was playing with the ball, kicking it about like a soccer ball, when it rolled onto the path of the moving forklift.

The victim was trying to retrieve the ball, when he was hit, dragged and run-over by the forklift, SBMA investigators said.

Dacanay, who used the forklift to move away the basketball stand, was not licensed to drive the equipment, it was noted.

Pyeong Jong Yu, deputy managing director of HHIC-Phil, said Dacanay drove the equipment "without getting any instruction from either Korean or Filipino foremen."

"We are still trying to verify how he got the key of the unit, since the key should have been kept in the toolbox container," Yu added.

Choi's death was the 19th fatal accident so far to occur at the Hanjin shipbuilding facility in Subic's Redondo Peninsula, which had claimed its 18th Filipino victim only two days earlier.

Most of the accidents, or a total of 15, were construction-related, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza.

Arreza immediately ordered a suspension of work at Assembly Shop C and told SBMA investigators to look at the circumstances surrounding the mishap, including the lighting conditions at the site.

Last Friday, Arreza also ordered the suspension of a Hanjin subcontractor, the Great Steel Construction, whose operations led to the fatal accident involving Raldon del Rosario, a 19-year old worker from Kalinga Apayao.

Arreza said earlier that the Subic authority will pursue the prosecution of all parties found liable in last Friday's accident, when an 800-kilogram curtain door assembly toppled during testing.

Del Rosario's co-worker, identified as Camalao Bochei, 24, and also from Kalinga Apayao, suffered leg injury in the same accident.

SBMA investigators said Del Rosario and Bochei were just passing by the assembly shop where Great Steel workers were installing and testing a rain curtain, when the chain holding the assembly reportedly broke, causing the metal base support to be detached.

"We're definitely taking action on this, and heads will roll," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said on Friday as he announced the suspension of Great Steel Construction during a press conference held just a few hours after the accident.

"We will be firm, but fair," he vowed.

Arreza added that the SBMA is "also looking into the contingent liability of Hanjin, because it is the general contractor of the shipyard."

While emphasizing that Del Rosario's death had nothing to do with shipbuilding activity, Arreza said that this does not necessarily clear Hanjin Heavy Industries Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil), which operates the $1.7-billion shipyard here.

"We will push through with prosecuting all those who will be found liable," Arreza said.

He also said that the SBMA has recently issued two notices of violation to Hanjin after the SBMA noted in a safety inspection on January 6 that some workers in the shipyard did not have personal protective equipment (PPE), and that some work areas were dimly-lit and not well-ventilated.

HHIC's Yu, meanwhile, said that Great Steel Construction was to blame for the accident on Friday.

"As it is very clear that the incident was caused by either improper installation of chain block, or mechanical failure of some of its components, and no signage was installed by them thereon to prevent incidental use of it before completion of its installation, we will hold them (Great Steel Construction) responsible for the accident," Yu said. (SBMA Corporate Communications)

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