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Explosion injures seven at Korean petrochemical plant

01 September 2022

An explosion caused a fire to break out at the SK geo centric Company’s polymer plant in Ulsan, South Korea on August 31. The incident, which reportedly occurred after a chemical leak, injured seven people.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The initial explosion happened at 15:43 local time when firefighters were called to the SK geo centric polymer plant. Firefighters managed to extinguish a fire that had broken out and said that seven people had been injured, including four employees and three subcontractors. All seven were taken to local hospitals for treatment where one was said to be in a critical condition.

According to local news, the explosion was heard from several miles away and the shockwave of the blast was felt in several nearby apartment buildings. Some news sites are reporting that the incident happened after a cyclohexane leak occurred while a worker was checking to see if a shut-off valve was working. These reports are unconfirmed.

South Korea’s Ministry of Employment and Labour sent inspectors to the scene to open an investigation. All work at the petrochemical plant was stopped. The Ministry will work with police and firefighters to determine the cause of the explosion while also determining whether the Serious Disasters Punishment Act, a recent law which aims to punish the management of companies that are responsible for workplace accidents, should be enacted.

Some news sites have reported that SK geo centric is likely to be punished under the Act, which was introduced in January 2022, because the explosion was the second incident to have occurred at the Ulsan plant in the last four months. In April, a toluene storage tank at the site caught fire and seriously injured two workers. The workers were rushed to hospital where they later died from their injuries.

The Serious Disasters Punishment Act is aimed at punishing the management of companies and can see CEOs and owners punished with minimum one-year prison sentences and/or a fine of up to 1 billion won (£617,000) in the wake of serious workplace accidents.

SK geo centric is a subsidiary of refining company SK innovation.

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