TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- After news broke on Thursday (Aug. 29) that a Filipina migrant worker had died from a chemical spill at an electronics factory in Miaoli County, netizens have expressed grief for the victim and criticized the plant's owners for cutting corners on safety.
The worker, identified as 29-year-old Deserie Castro Tagubasi, was wearing protective clothing to clean circuit boards with hydrofluoric acid in an electronics plant run by Tyntek Corporation (鼎元光電) in the Chunan Science Park Wednesday (August 28) morning. However, as she turned around, she accidently knocked over the container and the substance spattered the back of her legs, which the clothing did not cover.
She suffered chemical burns over a large surface of her legs, and while colleagues tried to help her, she still died after her transfer to hospital, reports said. As few hospitals are equipped to deal with burns from hydrofluoric acid, the woman had to be transferred by ambulance from the factory in Miaoli to the Veterans’ General Hospital in Taipei.
Screenshot of Tagubasi's Facebook page.
On Thursday evening, a netizen shared Tagubasi's personal Facebook page on the migrant worker Facebook group TIG. The netizen wrote, "This is the Facebook page of a young migrant worker at Tyntek who was splashed by hydrofluoric acid and died in extreme pain. I don't want to blur her face because I want everyone to know that she was a real, living Filipina girl who was planning her future with her boyfriend."
The netizen then criticized the factory for giving out only half-length protective clothing to the migrant workers, and for not preparing hexafluralin or diphoterine neutralizing agents. He wrote, "Some netizens said that 500 cc of this neutralizing agent would cost NT$6,000. It's not cheap, I don't understand the manufacturer's mentality."
He went on to write that, "I only know that a young life has just disappeared. It's very cheap. Taiwanese are not willing or brave enough to work in such production lines. Those migrant workers risk their lives in these dangerous jobs, and yet are discriminated against by Taiwanese like chickens. I don't know when such tragedies will end."
Tagubasi in obvious pain being wheeled on gurney. (Miaoli County Fire Department photo)
A Tynteck spokesman said that the female migrant worker had been employed at the factory for three years. He then issued the following explanation, according to ETtoday:
"On Aug. 28, she had been wearing protective clothing, when the corrosive liquid had been jarred loose. When she turned around, the hydrofuoric acid poured out and splashed on the back on her lower legs, which were not covered by protective clothing, causing extensive burns to the back of her legs. The factory staff immediately came forward to help, first smearing calcium gluconate gel onto the wounds and sent her to the hospital for emergency treatment. After being transferred to the toxicology department of Veteran's Hospital in Taipei, she was still unfortunately declared dead at 10 p.m. on Aug. 28."
Miaoli County Fire Department said that hydrofluoric acid is highly corrosiveness and toxic. It is mostly used in etching circuit boards in electronics factories for cleaning purposes.
The fire department said that when the skin is accidentally splashed by hydrofluoric acid, it is necessary to use hexafluralin or diphoterine as a neutralizer and detergent, and apply it with calcium gluconate ointment. If not handled promptly after contact, the injured person could face amputation, and may even suffer fatal injuries to their heart, liver, and nervous system, according to the fire department.
Tagubasi being placed in ambulance. (Miaoli County Fire Department photo)
Tsao Chun-feng (曹春風), a section chief with the fire department said that when paramedics arrived on the scene, the victim was still conscious, but she had a strained expression on her face due to the intense pain, reported ETtoday. In addition, Tsao said the factory did not apply hexafluralin nor diphoterine to her wounds when providing first aid, which is one of the factors leading to serious consequences, according to the report.
According to her colleagues, the woman had been working at the factory for at least two years and was planning to return home to the Philippines next month, CNA reported. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) personnel have been dispatched to the factory to investigate the case and have asked the company to provide protective clothing that fully covers the workers' bodies to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
The exact circumstances of the accident are currently under investigation by authorities.
Tagubasi inside ambulance. (Miaoli County Fire Department photo)
The chemical is one of the strongest acids known to man and therefore is extremely corrosive and toxic, and able to cause death when touching the skin as it can penetrate all the way into bones and internal organs. It is frequently used in the electronics industry and for metal cleaning and glass etching.