In a blow to Samsung Electronics, a court ruled yesterday that the deaths of two employees at Samsung’s semiconductor plant should be considered an industrial accident and that Samsung should compensate their families accordingly.
The two workers died of leukemia, and their families filed for industrial accident compensation with Korean Workers’ Compensation and Welfare (KWCW) three years ago, claiming their illness had been caused by exposure to harmful elements at the plant.
But KWCW refused the claim, saying it saw no direct link between leukemia and the semiconductor plant. That prompted the families to file a lawsuit in January of last year.
The Seoul Administrative Court said in a ruling yesterday: “Although it is unclear exactly how Hwang and Lee caught leukemia, it can be construed that their exposures to dangerous chemicals and radiation were catalysts, at the very least. Thus it’s safe to conclude there is a link between leukemia and the workplace.”
The court added that research by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency proves that workers at chip facilities have higher risk of cancers of the lymphatic system and leukemia, which shows environmental factors had an effect on their diseases.
But the court did not acknowledge such a link for two other workers and a family member of a late worker, citing a lack of evidence.
Samsung said it plans to appeal. A Samsung official told Yonhap, “The ruling goes against the results of investigations by a state-approved organization on semiconductor plants’ occupational environment,” adding that it will soon have results from another independent study.
The civic group Banollim, formed to protect rights of semiconductor workers, claims 20 workers at the plant suffered from leukemia or cancer, with nine deaths since 1998.
Samsung maintains that there are no such risks at its plant, citing an investigation by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency in 2007 and 2008, which concluded it’s unlikely that the plant caused the diseases.
In June, Samsung said that it commissioned an independent, yearlong safety study to examine health risks at its semiconductor plant, which will be led by Environ, an environment and health consultancy, and carried out with input from some 20 academic experts.
By Kim Hyung-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]
(original article: http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2937990)