Safety checkups aren’t safe

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Safety checkups aren’t safe


Incheon Metropolitan City narrowly avoided a deadly disaster recently when the ceiling materials collapsed at the student swimming center. On the day of the accident, 11 students from Guwol Seo Elementary School and Sanga Elementary School of Incheon started their lessons at 9 a.m. Around 11:20 a.m., they finished their lesson and headed to the shower facility next to the swimming pool. Ten minutes later, the ceiling over the pool collapsed.

The swimming center had completed repairs on Jan. 23. At the time, the Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education, which supervises the construction work, said that the repairs were completed with no problems. The office, which also manages the center, conducts three regular inspections annually. The first takes place between January and March, the second during the summer season and the third in November and December.

The office gave a “B” to the facility in its safety inspection in November, saying that the center had some minor damage but was in good shape.

During last year and this year, the center received four safety inspections. How was it possible that the ceiling collapsed? It is because the inspections were poor. The education office said last year’s four safety inspections and last month’s inspection for the repairs were handled visually. This is an extreme lack of safety sense.

“Since the facility is used by many people, shouldn’t the inspections have been more meticulous by using machines?” I asked a city education official. “Visual inspections are normal for regular inspections and repair works,” he answered. “Unless it is a major construction work, no inspectors are designated for minor projects such as the repair work for the swimming center. A public servant with a qualification conducts inspection.”

During the repair work in January, a construction company that was initially selected went bankrupt, and a new company took over the job. It is questionable if the city education office even paid any attention to experience and financial conditions when it chose a contractor.
“Our laws on architecture and engineering do not regulate the aspects that require thorough and stern regulations,” said Lee Kang-min, professor of architectural engineering at Chungnam National University. “Instead, they often regulate areas that do not need regulations.

Public facilities such as the swimming center should have been inspected by outside experts, even if it was just a mere repair work.”

Accidents take place without warning. The problem is that we see more and more accidents caused by our lack of safety awareness.

This accident was not an exception. What would have happened if the children stayed in the pool for 10 more minutes?

The police have opened an investigation into the accident. It must be thoroughly investigated if there was any corruption involved in the safety inspection and contractor selection.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 29

*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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