Lifting Accident Kills Subcontractor at Hyundai’s Ulsan Shipyard

Hyundai shipyard
One person was killed and another serious injured in a lifting accident (gile photo)

Published Feb 13, 2024 1:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Work was suspended at HD Hyundai Heavy Industries’ Ulsan shipyard on Tuesday after a fatal accident on Monday evening killed one person and left a second person seriously injured. Both individuals were subcontractors to South Korea’s largest shipyard.

According to the media reports, three subcontractors were at the yard supervising the lift and repositioning of a massive 9,000-ton block. It is part of a construction project for an offshore crude oil production platform. They were part of a firm that is reported to specialize in these types of heavy lifts. The repositioning of the block was taking place shortly before 7:00 p.m. local time when it collapsed for unknown reasons.

One individual age 60 was crushed under the block and pronounced dead at the yard. A second subcontractor age 50 was also hit by the block with reports of broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. This individual was able to free himself from the block and was rushed to a hospital in critical condition. A third employee of the subcontractor was also involved in the project but was far enough away that he was uninjured. 

South Korean officials immediately imposed a stop work order for the block handling operations and launched an investigation which will involve interviewing witnesses and reviewing procedures. The company reported that all work was stopped at the Ulsan yard today for a mandatory safety training program for all workers. 

The accident comes as HD Hyundai was highlighting that it had gone 22 months without a serious accident. The last fatal accident was in April 2022 and also involved a subcontractor who was killed in a cutting accident where the fuel tanks exploded. HD Hyundai had just announced a program last month targeting 1,000 days for its safety program.

South Korea has strict workplace safety regulations. Under the law, senior management of a company can be liable when fatal or serious accidents occur in their facilities.

Yesterday’s accident comes just a month after Hanwha Ocean also reported a fatal accident at its fabrication shops at its shipyard facility in Okpo. In that incident, a subcontractor working in the fabrication shop for rudders was killed in an explosion. Union leaders called for a full investigation of the labor practices of the company arguing that safety precautions can not be overlooked for the sake of production.