Outrage as scaffolding bar kills woman in Hanoi

By Sen    October 3, 2018 | 06:20 pm PT
The tragic death of a young woman in Hanoi has reignited concerns and criticism of unsafe construction practices and lax enforcement.

Duong Thi Hang, 30, died on the spot, and Nguyen Hung Cuong was hospitalized after a scaffolding bar fell last Friday from the 16th floor of a building under construction on Le Van Luong Street in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District.

The bar reportedly fell on three moving motorbikes, but the third driver is presumed safe since no information is available about the person.

Thanh Xuan District police are considering leveling charges of violations of labor safety and labor hygiene regulations in public places.

The accident scene on Le Van Luong Street, Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

The accident scene on Le Van Luong Street, Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

Many people, including readers, lawyers and other professionals have blamed the tragedy and other similar accidents on negligent workers, contractors and investors and indifferent safety enforcement by authorities.

Passers-by have died in many construction site accidents in the last few years.

The Cat Linh-Ha Dong elevated railway project in Hanoi was even dubbed the "the road to death" after several accidents happened at the site.

In November 2014 an iron bar fell from its malfunctioning construction lift on traffic below killing one person instantly and severely injuring some others.

A month later a 10-meter-long scaffolding bar came loose, causing a number of huge iron bars to fall one by one on the road below.

A taxi driver stepped on the brake and escaped being hit, but the bars were still falling. Construction workers and passers-by rushed to the taxi and dragged the driver and passengers to safety even as bars continued to fall from a height of six meters.

In mid-2015, at a railway construction site on Ho Tung Mau Street in Hanoi, another 10-meter-long scaffolding bar almost killed two motorbike drivers when it dropped right in front of them. It took place during rush hour and could have turned out to be deadly.

Even people inside houses are not apparently safe as of Nguyen Van Hung found out in 2016. He was at home in the capital city's Tho Nhuom Street when a huge block of cement and other building materials from a nearby construction site fell on his and two other roofs. While everyone else escaped unscathed, Hung was slightly injured. All three roofs and items inside the houses were damaged.

A construction crane collapsed on two motorbike drivers and one bicycle rider, killing one instantly and heavily injuring the remaining in Hai Phong City, November 2015. Photo VnExpress/ Giang Chinh.

A construction crane collapsed on two motorbike drivers and one bicycle rider, killing one instantly and heavily injuring the remaining in Hai Phong City, November 2015. Photo by VnExpress/ Giang Chinh.


"It is heartbreaking that we sacrifice human lives in exchange for modern architecture, that innocent people die for this ‘rising’ capital city," Quoc Phong, a reader, wrote to VOV Online.

Nguyen Anh Thom of the Hanoi Lawyers Association, commenting on the scaffolding bar death in Hanoi last Friday, said that the first entity to point the finger at when people die is the contractor.

One of the main causes leading to such unfortunate accidents is lack of preparation and due diligence. Safety measures are not carried out, including covering the construction site, installing warning signs, and putting safety nets above crowded areas, he claimed.

Thom said it is the contractor’s responsibility to formulate and submit to the investor a comprehensive plan on labor safety for approval. The contractor must have a safety management division and instruct workers to identify risk factors for accidents and devise accident prevention measures for the construction site.

He argued that the person directly in charge of labor safety was at fault, in the above case. This individual did not comply with the provisions on safety measures mandatory for construction sites, leading to serious consequences.

Under the law, offenders may be subject to fines of between VND50 million ($2,144) and VND500 million ($21,444), non-custodial reform for up to 3 years or serve a one-to-five year prison term, depending on the level and nature of the accident.

In addition, this person would also have to compensate the victims or their families for physical and mental suffering caused, Bui Dinh Ung of the Hanoi Lawyer Association told local press.

The official take

Nguyen Quang Huy, deputy director of construction quality control at Hanoi's Construction Department, said the blame and responsibilities are put on the investor.

This person should pay all damages, suspend the project, and devise measures to prevent further accidents. Even after that, it is not up to his/her but the police to determine whether the construction can resume after investigation, Huy said.

The investor of the high-rise in the case of Duong Thi Hang's death is the Sao Mai Import Export and Investment Company. 

The sub-contractor responsible for the facade glass installation is the Hanoi Moi DHP New Technology Development and Trading Joint Stock Company. Its spokesperson said the company would assume all responsibilities, the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper reported.

"Construction quality is born in the project director’s room and dies in the same room" is a saying circulating in the construction circle. If this was truly realized by construction units and related governmental bodies, there would be fewer tears shed by mothers, wives, and children of innocent people.

The prosecution of the guilty parties in the death of Hang indicates a new willingness to address the dangers at construction sites. In the past many of such accidents reportedly did not lead to a lawsuit or even a thorough investigation.

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