Silicosis is one of the top 28 serious occupational diseases in Vietnam. Those afflicted with this disease often struggle to live past the age of 50. Despite numerous warnings and reminders of the dangers, serious incidents continue to occur. In recent times, five workers at Chau Tien Stone Powder Company have died due to prolonged exposure to silicosis-inducing dust in their workplace. This serves as a stark reminder of the need for rigorous monitoring of environmental quality.
Chau Tien Stone Powder Company Overview
Chau Tien Co., Ltd. covers an area of 40,131 square meters in Zone A, Nam Cam Industrial Zone in Nghi Long commune, Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province. The company was initially licensed to produce stone powder with a capacity of 40,000 tons/year and wall putty with a capacity of 30,000 tons/year. Later, it invested in processing super-fine white limestone powder with a capacity of 180,000 tons/year and quartz stone powder processing with a capacity of 150,000 tons/year. The raw material used is silica-containing limestone.
Images captured depict the working environment inside the company, shrouded in polluted dust. Workers endure this contaminated space daily for extended periods. Due to the lack of waste treatment and monitoring systems, serious health impacts on laborers have resulted.
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Regarding legal compliance with environmental regulations, the inspection team discovered several limitations in the company. Specifically, the company failed to establish a reporting dossier proposing the issuance of an environmental permit for evaluation and approval. The collection and storage of hazardous waste were not in accordance with regulations, and hazardous waste was mixed with regular waste. Incomplete hazardous waste collection was noted. The storage area for hazardous waste did not comply with regulations.
Additionally, the company did not enter into a contract with a unit responsible for transporting and treating industrial waste. The industrial waste storage area and domestic waste did not meet requirements. The internal industrial drainage network did not meet requirements, and there was no drainage system for the entire plant. Furthermore, chemicals such as Oxalic Acid, NaOH, Chrome Oxide Green, Boric Acid, used in production, were not stored separately but were kept in the production workshop.
Investigation into Occupational Diseases for All Workers
On the evening of November 8, Mr. Thai Dinh Lam, Deputy Director of Nghe An Lung Hospital, announced that the interdisciplinary investigation team established by the Nghe An Department of Health had conducted health examinations and investigated occupational diseases for workers at Chau Tien Co., Ltd. The team included representatives from the Institute of Occupational Health and Environment, Ministry of Health.
As of now, 14 workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and related lung diseases. Among them, five have died due to silicosis. These workers all had periods of employment at Chau Tien Co., Ltd. in Nghi Loc district, Nghe An province. Their job involved soaking stones in acid, followed by grinding them into fine powder.
During the work process, acid fumes spread inside the workshop, affecting the health of the workers. The acid soaking and bleaching of silica stones were carried out in tanks, without acid-resistant measures. The technology was rudimentary, and the acid fumes negatively impacted the health of the workers.
Cautioning Against Environmental Quality Monitoring
In early October, an interdisciplinary inspection team in Nghe An reported to the provincial People's Committee regarding labor safety violations and environmental monitoring at Chau Tien Co., Ltd. According to the analysis results from the Institute of Occupational Health and Environment, the free silica content in raw materials and finished products was over 99%. However, prior to this, the company's leadership asserted that there were no issues with environmental management during evaluation visits.
Nghe An Provincial People's Committee fined Chau Tien Co., Ltd. VND 116 million for not monitoring occupational environment to control health hazards for workers. Specifically, from 2017 until now, the company failed to organize occupational environmental monitoring as required by law and did not conduct occupational health examinations for workers.
This incident of silicosis serves as an example that forces us to reevaluate occupational safety issues, particularly in ensuring a healthy environment for workers. This matter has been raised many times, but it seems there is a need to continue refining mechanisms, policies, and strictly implementing responsibilities for controlling occupational safety environments. We cannot allow the issue to only gain attention when an incident occurs, in response to public outrage.
This should be a wake-up call for enterprises, factories, and industrial zones to reassess their responsibilities regarding the safety of their employees and environmental monitoring. It emphasizes the need for increased deployment of solutions for monitoring environmental quality.
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