A chemical company in southern China is under fire for inadequately handling a work-related accident that resulted in the death of an employee in July, National Business Daily reported Wednesday.
Family members of 24-year-old Feng Zhuobin have accused Guangdong Xinhui Meida Nylon Co. Ltd. of improperly handing the accident in May and failing to disclose vital information to doctors. In a WeChat post on Tuesday, Feng’s parents claimed their son had been assigned to inspect an extraction tower without being given protective gear, and was severely burned with chemical-infused water when it exploded.
The family wrote that the Shenzhen-listed company didn’t send Feng to a hospital until nearly an hour after the accident. They also accused the employer of not revealing to doctors that the burns had been caused by caprolactam — a substance used in nylon that releases toxic fumes when burned — leading to the patient being treated instead for water burns. Not until six days later, following medical complications, did the company have Feng transferred to another hospital, where doctors were able to diagnose the chemical burn.
Feng died on July 24, nearly two months after he was initially hospitalized.
Under Chinese law, businesses are required to pay for their employees’ insurance. Insurance for work-related injuries also provides for medical treatment and, under certain circumstances, financial compensation. When such injuries lead to death, the victim’s family is entitled to a compensatory sum equal to 20 times the per-capita disposable income of a local resident from the year prior to the accident.
The nylon company said it paid around 2 million yuan ($290,000) for Feng’s medical treatment. But the company has remained tight-lipped about the family’s compensation claims, rejecting their 4.5 million-yuan claim in July, and then their 2.5 million-yuan claim in August. By law, the family is entitled to roughly 1.2 million yuan.
Responding to Feng’s family’s accusations on Tuesday, Xinhui Meida Nylon said the employee had failed to recognize the potential risks, and had not taken timely measures to avoid a dangerous situation. The company added that Feng had been rushed to the hospital within 15 minutes of the accident and denied that any of its staff had misled doctors. The company did, however, admit to poor enforcement of a protective clothing regulation.
“The injured employee himself and the accompanying workers definitely explained to the doctor the components of the extracted water that had caused the burns,” Zhu Minghui, a member of the company’s board of directors, told National Business Daily.
Work-related deaths once plagued China’s labor sector: Nearly 80,000 people were killed on the job in 2010, according to official statistics. By 2017, such deaths were down to 38,000, due in large part to a government crackdown on unsafe workplaces.
However, the Ministry of Emergency Management said in June that both major accidents and deaths in the chemical industry had increased in the first five months of this year, without providing figures. Government officials have blamed the chemical industry’s high workplace accident rate on a lack of safety awareness, irregular operations, and unsafe facilities.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: A photo from the website of Guangdong Xinhui Meida Nylon Co. Ltd.)