TAIPEI: Taiwan authorities fined a golf ball manufacturer $75,000 on Monday and warned of criminal charges for storing 30 times the legal limit of hazardous material and other violations after a major factory fire killed nine people and left one other missing.
The mayor of Pingtung county said at a news conference that Launch Technologies Co. had 3,000 tons of organic peroxides on site, far more than the 100 tons of hazardous material that is permitted, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
Those responsible would be held accountable for public endangerment and negligent manslaughter, Mayor Chou Chun-mi said.
Company officials could not be reached for comment.
It’s unclear what caused the fire on Friday, but two explosions in the already burning building trapped firefighters and workers under rubble. Four firefighters were among the nine who died. More than 100 other people were injured.
Organic peroxides, which are highly flammable, are used in a variety of rubber products including golf ball cores. Launch Technologies is one of the world’s major golf ball makers, producing 20 percent of the global supply last year.
Taiwanese law requires organic peroxides to be stored in a separate warehouse building, but Launch Technologies kept the material on the first floor of the factory building, Chou said.
Larger fines were assessed for failing to designate a point person to help fight the fire and failing to give a complete inventory of the organic peroxides on site when firefighters arrived, she said.
Launch Technologies, which was founded in 2006, has been fined before.
Since 2018, the company has been fined $6,200 for safety and health violations and another $9,300 over labor conditions, according to Taiwan’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The company was also fined $9,300 for air pollution violations in 2020, according to its 2021 annual report.
In 2011, a court ordered Launch Technologies to pay compensation to five workers who had sued the company for working overtime beyond the legal limit and in polluted conditions harmful to their health. Company general manager Lu Ying-cheng said at a news conference on Sunday that Launch Technologies has made improvements to the work environment in recent years.