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Campus in Crisis: School Accidents

 Recently, more and more accidents have occured in universities. One such event was the accidental fire that occurred at Inha University's college of engineering building on January 1, 2021. There are various causes of accidents on campus, including aging buildings and careless attitudes of students. Through this article, we will look at the status and types of safety issues on campus, cases of accidents at domestic and overseas universities, and preventative measures for accidents.

Accidents on Campus against safety

 A safety issue means that a person is injured or property damaged is because of insufficient safety education, violation of safety rules, or carelessness. Of these, University safety issues refers to accidents that occur in school. Typical accidents at universities include spillage of toxic chemical material, falls, traffic accidents, and accidents caused by out-dated facilities. Also, there had been growing concern about traffic accidents as the use of electric kickboards by students have increased.

 There are several causes of accidents. In particular, low interest in safety, old facilities, and dangerous circumstances are the most common causes of campus accidents.  First, most accidents originated from unawareness of safety. People lack awareness and interest in the risk of accidents. Second, accidents can occur from old facilities not being given thorough inspections. Lastly, high risk equipment, handled by students in some departments, such as electrical engineering and chemistry departments, are highly likely to cause accidents.

 According to the status report from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and ICT that participants in research activities concerning accidents in institutions, the total number of accidents in laboratories from 2016 to 2020 was 834 of which about 60%, or 585 occurred at universities. About 62% of all lab accidents in 2020 (77 cases) occurred on campus, leaving students at risk in laboratories despite most universities having online classes due to covid-19.

 In another report submitted by Park Kyung-mi of the Democratic Party of Korea from the Ministry of Science, ICT, the number of accidents in university labs increased 1.6 times over three years from 170 in 2015 to 266 in 2018. According to the type of accidents that occurred, 329 cases of stabbing or cutting (32%) were the most common. There were 296 burns, accounting for 29% of all accidents. The number of accidents is increasing every year. In addition, accidents such as infections and fractures were found to be high, and more than one case of amputation has occurred every year, including 2019, with severe levels of injury that caused amputation or other significant damage caused by bites from animals and insects.

 출처 : 한국대학신문

In addition, the safety management system in universities was found to have an insufficient organization, manpower, planning, and regulations compared to elementary and secondary schools. Just 14% (49 universities) have departments dedicated to safety management, and only 15% (51 universities) have safety regulations. Only 28.6% of universities have just one person in charge of saftey and 22.4% have only two to three people, so more than half of Korean universities entrust safety management to less than three people.

Accidents at domestic universities

 Now  let's look at the kind of accidents that happened on campus. The first is old facilities. In 2018, the dormitory of the International Hall of the Catholic University in Bucheon was the subject of a big controversy among students due to the poor structure of the building.

 At that time, students and parents were anxious and complained about cracks on the ceiling and walls of the dormitory. They were particularly outraged when they understood that the university distributed sheets to students and had them cover the cracked walls, saying that they were safe and  the structure of the building was sound. Gyeongin Ilbo checked the dormitory, and they found cracks in various places on the 15th floor as the students claimed, and tiles in the hallway on the 10th floor were broken or fallen. It was also confirmed that there were leaks and damage to the roof of the lobby on the 4th floor.

 A similar example is the collapse of the outer wall of the museum building at Busan National University. On May 21, 2019, at 2:10 p.m., a number of bricks suddenly fell from the outer wall of the Busan National University Museum in Jangjeon-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Busan collapsed. A cleaner, who was under the building at the time, was crushed to death by the pile of falling bricks.

 The art museum building is a five-story building, and hundreds of bricks on the fourth and fifth floors of one wall fell all at once, so the cleaner couldn’t avoid being hit. This building where the accident occurred was constructed in March 1993 and is 26 years old. Busan National University students who were interviewed by the Segye Ilbo said, "I felt anxiety about the condition of the art museum building where the accident occurred because  there were cracks everywhere and some of the finish material on the outer wall was missing." About this accident, Busan National University said, "As a result of a thorough visual inspection of the museum building w last year, and we did not take any action because it was rated as grade B which means it did not need immediate repair." After the accident, Busan National University belatedly closed the museum and decided to conduct a precision safety diagnosis and more the assigned lecture rooms in the museum to other buildings.

 The investigation revealed the cause of the accident. The police received a precise assessment from the National Forensic Service in early July 2020 that the brick collapse accident was caused by poor construction. They tried to find the person in charge of building construction to find out how the building was poorly constructed, but the related construction company, which built the museum, had already closed its business and no related documents existed. Because they could not find the person in charge of the construction to be held directly responsible for the poor construction, the police discussed with experts and concluded that the investigation would finish by indirectly charging the person in charge of the poor construction.

 In another event, a traffic accident occurred when a student was hit by a car while using a crosswalk at Chungnam National University on May 21 in 2019. There were two sharp curves near the KT&G Agricultural Biotechnology Center at Chungnam National University where the accident occurred. Even though there was a sign to slow down along the downhill section of the road, it did not prevent the accident.

 The student was moved to a hospital by ambulance and showed signs of cerebral hemorrhage and was transferred to Konyang University Hospital. An official at Chungnam National University said that the condition of the student was not serious enough to require surgery. So, he would receive medical treatment and afterwards be discharged from the hospital.

 A similar case of an accident near a school occurred on October 24, 2020. On that day, a student who was riding an electric kickboard died at Myongji Natural Campus. On the 24th at 6:15 p.m., a student B (24) who was riding an electric kickboard was found collapsed on a two-lane road at Myongji University Natural Campus in Yongin City.

 He was unconscious for a long time and finally died. The site of the accident was near a barrier installed to prevent people entering a damaged section of one of the two-lane roads. B was found by a bus driver passing by and it was turned out that B was not wearing a helmet at the time. Frequent accidents occur in schools due to carelessness, in cases like these.

 On December 27 in 2019, an explosion occurred while chemical waste was being disposed of in the chemical laboratory of Kyungpook National University. One male and three female students were burned in the laboratory at the time. One student suffered third-degree burns to all over his body and the other suffered third-degree burns on parts of his body in this accident at Kyungpook National University.

 They needed more than 1 billion won for treatment, so it was difficult to cover the cost with 'laboratory safety insurance' alone. Kyungpook National University was reluctant to cover students' medical expenses because they thought that the reasons for doing so were not clear. In addition, Kyungpook National University suddenly gave notice of suspension of payment in April because long-term treatment caused more medical expenses than they originally expected.

 As social criticism grew, Kyungpook National University reversed its decision in May 2020. The father of the victim of the accident at Kyungpook National University showed tears in an official appearance and said, "A daughter who has many dreams is sick now·····." As a result, on June 24, 2021, the national assembly passed a bill that could support victims of the 2019 Gyeongbuk University Laboratory explosion. In addition, the revision of the Laboratory Safety Environment Act proposed by Rep. Jeon Hye-sook of the Democratic Party of Korea calls for universities to be responsible for treatment costs that exceed  the limit of private insurance in the event of casualties in the laboratory.

Measures to prevent accidents on campus

 In December 2020, a bill to treat victims of chemical laboratory accidents at Kyungpook National University was proposed by the National Assembly at the same time. Rep. Seo Dong-Yong, a member of the National Assembly's Education Committee, proposed an amendment to the National Convention Accounting Act that adds "support for those affected by accidents during education and research" to the National University's accounting expenditure. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education added: "creating a safe environment" to the intent of the government's financial support for victims.

 The revision of the Laboratory Safety Environment Creation Act was proposed by Jeon Hye-sook (a member of the National Assembly's Science and ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee) This revision imposed an obligation to cover the cost of treatment of victims in the event of laboratory accidents. The existing law only stipulated the obligation to have safety insurance for the laboratory. But there was no regulation on responsibility and compensation in the event of damage which exceeds the safety insurance limit of the laboratory. In the National Assembly in March 2021, it was clear that the revised law applying industrial accident compensation insurance would be passed if student researchers were involved in a laboratory accident.

 In September 2020, an elevated crosswalk was installed on the school road between the economics building and the engineering building in Chungnam National University. It was designed by Kim Jung-woo, a student majoring in electronic engineering at Chungnam National University. This was intended to ensure pedestrian safety and prevent on-campus traffic accidents. The elevated crosswalk named "Eungyongbuk" won the award at the National University Pedestrian Safety Facility Design Contest hosted by the Ministry of Education.

출처 : 충대신문

 The elevated crosswalk installed this time is similar to the design of the existing crosswalk. And it has representative books by major, which does not cause a sense of incompatibility for pedestrians. Kim Jung-woo said in a news article on campus, "I am glad that the structure designed for the safety of Chungnam National University members was installed on the campus." "I hope that this elevated crosswalk will make both pedestrians and drivers safe."

 The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport released the "Safety Management Measures for Old Buildings" at the 64th National Policy Review and Coordination Meeting presided over by Prime Minister Lee Nak-Yeon on January 10, 2019. The main purpose of the safety management measures is to strengthen the current safety management system to prevent building collapse. The main contents of the safety management measures for old buildings are as follows. Buildings that are subject to regular inspection for more than 20 years must be inspected for precision safety at least once in 5 years. It contains a requirement to dismantle some of the finishing materials or the use electronic endoscopes during precise safety inspections. This is based on the criticism that there is a limit to the discovery of structural defects such as cracks if the structure is covered with finishing material because current safety inspections are only being carried out visually. In addition, safety inspections should be conducted during remodeling or interior construction where major structural units such as columns and beams are exposed. Inspectors will conduct hearings with building managers and users while distributing checklists so managers can record any abnormalities in the building. In addition, the building manager's responsibility for safety management has been strengthened. Building managers must establish a "building management plan" if the building has a floor area of 3000 square meters or more. This plan should consider long-term repair, structural safety, seismic capacity, and fire safety, and fines will be imposed for violations. In addition, the head of the local government, instead of the building manager, must designate the inspection company. A specialized institution will evaluate the safety inspection results regularly. This is to prevent building managers from directly selecting inspection companies and damaging the objectivity of inspection results or allowing negligent or poor inspections.

Cases of safety management at overseas universities

 According to a report on how to advance the safety policy of tlaboratories released by the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning in 2010, the U.S. regulates laboratory safety through the Laboratory Standards, a sub-paragraph of the Industrial Safety and Health Act. According to this standard, the ultimate responsibility for the safety management of the laboratory lies with the university president. And in most cases, he operates a department dedicated to safety affairs under the vice president's direct authority. All 30 major research-oriented universities in the U.S. are known to have a department dedicated to safety and health to thoroughly inspect laboratory safety. George Mason University and Yale University also operate various education programs related to the prevention and reporting of accidents that affect university students. A university police organization in charge of campus security is established within the university to manage campus safety and security in cooperation with local police. The schools also have programs in which students receive wages after completing 102 hours of education, provide safety and security services to university members and visitors, and conduct patrols.

 Europe also gives clear authority to safety managers and is fully responsible at the same time. The University of Paris in France has 250 safety managers in laboratory units under the control of the university's general safety manager. They conduct risk assessment and deactivation of laboratory waste in accordance with legal regulations. Germany guarantees independence and autonomy of safety management supervision work in universities. For example, a safety manager at Friedrich Alexander University in Germany may also take measures to close the lab if necessary. At the same time, German universities have set safety education as a requirement for graduation. Students cannot participate in laboratory training unless they receive a certain amount of safety education.

 Japan also controls the safety of laboratories in accordance with the Laboratory Pre-Sanitation Act, Laboratory Pre-Sanitation Rules, and the Act of the Management of Chemical Emissions. For example, Osaka University records and monitors all incoming and outgoing chemical substances at the Environmental Safety Research and Management Center. Japanese universities also specifically set standards to regulate factors that can affect the safety of experimenters, such as laboratory ventilation standards and the degree of exposure to toxic chemicals. In addition, safety managers inspect the substances and procedures with clear authority and responsibility and students' awareness of safety is increased through various education programs.

Inha University Accidents

  A chemical leakage occurred at 12:35 p.m. on May 24 in 2018 at Inha University laboratory. At that time, a student at Inha University found that 10% hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and 90% argon (Ar) were leaking through cracks in a 47-liter container at Quantum Nanomaterial Laboratory. One of the three students was transferred to the hospital, having complained of dizziness, and 300 students and faculty members were immediately evacuated. The school used the Inha University's official application at around 1:08 p.m. on the same day saying, "The evacuation of personnel and building control due to a hydrogen sulfide gas leak." We sent a notification saying, "We are currently cleaning up the site," and then posted notification on the school's website. A gas treatment company that has been commissioned by the school will handle the chemical gas leaked from the site. However, it was revealed that Inha University did not report the accident of a laboratory chemical gas leak on campus to the relevant authorities. The school thought that the accident was minor and so did not report it. However, according to the current chemical management law, if there is a possibility of a chemical accident or occurrence, the handling manager must report it to the relevant authorities immediately. Police and fire authorities confirmed the accident by themselves around 3 p.m., two and a half hours after the accident. On the day of the incident, an official at the Incheon Fire Headquarters said, "Not a single chemical accident has been reported," and a police official said, "We checked the accident ourselves and inspectors were dispatched." An official at the Siheung Chemical Disaster Joint Disaster Prevention Center of the Ministry of Environment said, "Under the current law, it is right to report chemical accidents. However, the university is managing chemicals for research purposes, so legal consideration is needed to determine whether the accident is a chemical accident or not." "We did our best in the initial measures and there were few casualties," Inha University said. "We didn't think it was an issue that needed a report.

 An accidental fire occurred in the laboratory of the engineering department on the 4th floor of Inha University Building 4 on January 1 in 2021. When the fire broke out, the student council of Inha University gave notice of the fire through social network service (SNS) and told not only the 4th building but also the students in a nearby second building to evacuate. Residents of apartments near Inha University also reported the fire to fire authorities as black smoke soared high along with flames. According to Incheon Michuhol Police Station and Incheon Fire Department, the fire broke out at around 12:21 a.m. in the engineering department on the 4th floor of Inha University Hall No. 4 in Yonghyeon-dong, Michuhol-gu, burning 330 square meters inside and was completely extinguished at 2:48. On the fourth floor of the building, there is a chemical engineering department and an architectural engineering department lab, and the chemical engineering department also reportedly had several chemicals. In particular, on the 4th floor which is the top floor of the building, the fire was found to have spread quickly because it is a temporary building made of sandwich panels. There were no students in the building at the time of the fire, so there were no casualties.

 To create a pleasant and safe campus, Inha University established an organization dedicated to safety and holds a large safety campaign regularly every month. Inha University holds its Clean & Safe Campaign the second Thursday of every month and conducts safety inspections on buildings and facilities in schools. This is to prevent accidents and improve the educational environment by eliminating hazards early. Inha University will establish a safety prevention team under the direct control of the vice president of the foreign affairs department before the campaign. They will change the name of the facility safety team under the secretariat. This campaign will be carried out in a way that all members of Inha University participate in the Safety Prevention Foundation, including the primary office, the administrative office of each college, and the students. The facilities team will inspect buildings and safety facilities. The disaster prevention team will check the condition of the laboratory, storage of flammable substances, and equipment around fire hydrants and fire doors. The administrative department in charge of each inspection area shall organize or control the fixtures in the school corridors and laboratories  before the regular inspection date. They will also check the status of safety management inside the laboratory in advance. Starting with the engineering department building, the disaster prevention organization and the office will designate monthly inspection areas including buildings No. 4~7, the High-tech building, Kim Hyun-tae Inha Dream Center, Seoho Building, the main building, the lifelong education center, and the 60th Anniversary Hall. Inha University signed a business agreement with Incheon Michuhol Fire Station and selected 30 students to create a "university student fire brigade." The volunteer fire brigade contributes to the spread of safety culture, such as fire prevention and safety promotion activities. The fire brigade will contribute to local communities such as social service. Inha University President Cho My-woo said, "For the safety of the campus and the community, all members of Inha University will participate in the regular safety campaign," "We expect the campaign to further enhance the safety awareness of the school community and create a better academic environment for students to focus on study and research."

 School accidents can occur anytime, anywhere from various causes. But many people think it's irrelevant, and it's always a problem because people are careless. To prevent accidents in our school, school members need to work to raise awareness of safety. First, schools and governments are obliged to promote safety first so that students can study in a safe environment. Therefore, schools and government agencies should work hard to establish a legal protection network by establishing institutional safeguards, and take active measures to protect students' safety by continuously conducting facility inspections. Students can also avoid threats to safety, and follow accident prevention guidelines to ensure a safe campus life.

이예지  leeyeji02@naver.com

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