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Seoul Metro under fire for continued accidents on subway tracks

Subway operator Seoul Metro came fire for lax safety after another worker died on Saturday from being trapped between a screen door separating the subway platform and the train on subway line No. 2. It was the third fatal accident of its kind to occur since 2013.

According to Gwangjin Police Station, the 19-year-old Kim, an employee of a company that Seoul Metro had subcontracted for door maintenance, had been repairing the platform screen door at Guui Station on Saturday evening.

He was working by himself, with neither supervisor nor any signboard to notify approaching train operators.

The authorities have examined surveillance camera recordings and are set to summon related officials for questioning. The probe will be jointly handled by the Ministry of Employment and Labor’s special judicial police and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency.

Clear screen doors were first set up in 2007 at subway stations in Seoul to prevent people from jumping onto the tracks in suicide attempts. The doors, however, have often caused casualties as they frequently malfunction.

In January 2013, a 38-year-old screen door maintenance worker surnamed Shim, was fatally hit by a train while he was on the tracks to fix a screen door at Seongsu Station. In August 2014, another employee surnamed Cho from the same company died from a similar accident at Gangnam Station. Both employees were carrying out the task alone when the accidents happened.

Last year, Seoul Metro established a safety manual for subway maintenance subcontractors, instructing workers to work in pairs and forbidding them from going on the tracks during subway operation hours.

However, such requirements are often overlooked by workers due to the limited number of workers as well as urgent calls by subway operators to quickly fix screen doors for passengers’ convenience.

“We deeply regret lax safety management over screen door maintenance involving our subcontracted companies. We apologize to the bereaved families and citizens who use Seoul Metro,” said Jeong Su-young, head of Seoul Metro’s infrastructure management department, on Saturday.

He added that Seoul Metro will change its screen door maintenance company from the current subcontractor to a city-run subsidiary company, starting from August, citing “workforce efficiency and strengthened safety.” It also said it would establish new requirements for screen door repair.

By Kim Da-sol(ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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