Subway death was ‘preventable’

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Subway death was ‘preventable’

The fact-finding committee on the Guui Station accident that resulted in the death of a teenage mechanic concluded the accident was a preventable one that could have happened to any platform repair worker, given the many safety loopholes in the platform repair operation of Seoul Metro.

On May 28, a 19-year-old platform door mechanic surnamed Kim was killed by an incoming train while repairing a malfunctioning platform door at Guui Station in Gwangjin District, eastern Seoul. Since 2013, he was the third mechanic killed while repairing platform doors in subway stations in Seoul operated by Seoul Metro, a corporation run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

“The committee reached the conclusion that the Guui Station accident was firstly a preventable end brought about by the ‘incomplete safety system’ of our society and not simply the result of ‘someone’s carelessness,’” reads the committee’s report.

The public and private fact-finding committee concluded its two-month investigation on Thursday after perusing documents, checking CCTV camera footage of subway stations, interviewing mechanics and speaking with railway operation experts.

“From the moment Kim was dispatched to the repair work to the time of his accident,” the report continues, “he was working without any management, direction or monitoring by Seoul Metro or its subcontractor Eunsung PSD, without a single form of protection gear, and completely alone. The accident could have happened to anyone.” According to the committee, all nine steps of the workers’ manual on platform door repair operation were ignored not only on the day of Kim’s death, but on any other day by mechanics, Eunsung PSD and Seoul Metro.

Kim was dispatched to work alone, in violation of the manual.

But with only six out of 11 mechanics present that day, and all dispatched to sites except Kim at the hour, he had no choice to but to go alone.

“During May, after checking CCTV footages, the committee confirmed that 57 percent of repair work was done by a mechanic dispatched to the stations alone,” the report said.

Due to the labor force shortage, some four to six mechanics work on an average 48 stations on any given day. The mechanics said they have on average of 25 minutes to eat during work.

In addition to the lack of monitoring on workers by Seoul Metro and Eunsung PSD, the report also pointed to severely aged platform door sensors, as well as pressure placed on train drivers to arrive on time.

Platform doors in subway line Nos. 1 through 4, operated by Seoul Metro, have 10 times more error reports than those in subway line Nos. 5 through 8, operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation.

A civic fact-finding committee will announce their findings on the Guui Station accident separate from the city government’s public and private committee in October.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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