Learning lessons from a big chemical disaster in Korea
Kwnaghee Lee and Il moon*
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Yonsei University, 50 Yonsei-ro, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-749, Republic of Korea
On September 27, 2012 a massive chemical dispersion disaster occurred at the Gumi National Industrial complex in the southern city of Korea. About 8 tons of hydrogen fluoride gas leaked as the valve of tank lorry was opened due to a worker' mistake. The operators at the factory had never experienced such a big chemical disaster, and the fire station in the area did not have enough equipment at the time of chemical accident, so that an initial counter measurement could not be conducted smoothly. Due to this accident, 5 workers were killed and about 3,600 local residents had to receive a medical treatment at hospitals due to the accident. And the damage proceeded to the second and third stage, causing 17.7 billion KRW of damage to enterprises and spoiling the crops on 323.8ha of land. After the Gu-mi disaster, law and regulations, government organization, and industrial safety system were completely revised and culture have leaded positive effects towards managing and responding to chemical disasters. The governmental action has been led to make more practical plan and manual to control and respond to chemical accident. The governmental reorganization against chemical disaster such as Joint inter-agency Chemical Emergency Preparedness Center which is a specialized agency focused on responding to chemical disasters has also made to increase technicalities of chemical accidents response. In addition, the relevant laws and regulations has clarified the different acts and programs on control, management and assessment of chemicals along as well as its accident. Moreover, private and public enterprises have been also making efforts to systematically manage safety issues and build high-level safety culture. In this paper, we discuss the changes attitudes against chemical accidents from various viewpoints and the successful case in which the relevant agencies responded to major chemical accidents more efficiently after those changes. In order to improve the initial response system against chemical accidents continuously, it is required to strengthen the role of on-site coordinator, establish the Chemical Accident Investigation Committee on a national level. This study covers the big systematic changes in laws, regulations, business culture for the chemical safety management after a big chemical release accidents.