Samsung Under Fire for Slow Report of Deadly Gas Leak
Samsung is once again being dogged by accusations of poor worker-safety protections at its chip plants, following a poisonous hydrofluoric acid gas leak that killed one employee and injured four others last weekend.
The leak occurred Sunday at a Samsung plant outside of Seoul, and while the company and its subcontractor — STI Service — were quick to repair it, neither reported the incident to the police until an employee exposed to the gas died. That belated response has landed Samsung in hot water with local authorities, who say the company’s failure to promptly report the incident is a violation of South Korea’s Toxic Chemicals Control Act. They’re threatening to fine the company up to one million won for the misstep.
Now, one million won is a pittance — about $923 U.S. Clearly, it won’t cause Samsung any pain at all. But the scrutiny the incident has drawn to the company might. Yonhap reports that government officials are investigating the leak and the manner in which it was handled for evidence of a cover-up. Their probe will determine whether or not the leak originated from a pipe that was in need of repair, and if plant workers had been provided with proper safety equipment.
“We will thoroughly investigate to clarify who is responsible for the incident as someone died due to poor administration,” an official told Yonhap. “We are investigating in four different ways to determine the exact amount of leaked gas, the secondary damage, how the incident was handled by the firms afterward, and the relevant law.”
Bad news for Samsung, which has been drawing fire for its labor practices for awhile now. Last November, the company was slapped with a slew of labor abuse accusations in China. Now this. News of the leak and Samsung’s handling of it come as other tech industry heavyweights like Apple are taking very clear — and very public — steps to ensure fair labor practices and safe working conditions at their manufacturing partners.
Reached for comment, a Samsung spokesperson provided the following statement: “A small amount of diluted hydrofluoric acid leaked during maintenance at one of the chemical supply systems at the Hwaseong site. Five contract workers at the scene were sent to hospital for treatment. Four of them have been discharged, while one worker died due to complications. Samsung would like to offer its deepest condolences to the deceased contractor and his family. The situation has been contained and Samsung will be investigating the circumstances of this unfortunate incident.”