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Upon the result of MOL-led occupational disease appraisal committee and Supreme Court mediation, a labor dispute case concerning eight Taipei Metro construction workers who suffered from Decompression sickness was resolved.

  • Last Modify Date:2024-01-08

     In 1993, during a tunnel excavation project for Section CH221 of the Taipei Metro Xindian Line that involved the application of New Austrian Tunneling Method with compressed air support, eight workers, employed by the joint contractors (New Asia Construction and the Japanese company Aoki Construction) suffered from Decompression sickness. Seven of them had already received occupational disease compensation through labor insurance. However, the dispute over the compensation led to judicial litigation. In 2019 and 2021, respectively, these workers applied for the occupational disease appraisal committee judgement through local governments to the Ministry of Labor.

     Given that the construction project was completed nearly 30 years ago, the actual work site no longer exists. To facilitate the appraisal process, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requested the Bureau of Labor Insurance to provide case files concerning these workers' occupational disease compensation. They reviewed the identification documents of the occurrence of Decompression sickness among the Taipei Metro workers. Those documents were compiled by the former Council of Labor Affairs between 1996 and 1998. Additionally, OSHA compiled relevant investigation reports and publications provided by local governments and labor organizations, as well as various occupational exposure information. OSHA then commissioned an occupational medicine team for further investigation and analysis, which included the review of medical literature studies. The team completed the occupational medical assessment reports for the workers.

    The reports were submitted to the Ministry of Labor's Occupational Disease Appraisal Committee for review. After reviewing the evidence of the disease, occupational exposure conditions, epidemiological data, chronological sequences, and other influencing factors for each case, seven individuals were identified with "occupational disease" in 2020. Another person was identified in 2022 with a disease attributed to "duties performed in the line of work."

    The workers pursued legal action to demand a compensation of NT$700,000 per person jointly from the contractor (New Asia Construction) and Taipei MRT Construction Bureau. In 2019, the Taipei District Court obtained relevant documents from OSHA concerning the occupational disease appraisal process. In November 2021, the court ruled to dismiss the workers' lawsuit, citing that it exceeded the statute of limitations. Dissatisfied with the decision, the workers appealed. The High Court acknowledged that the workers had obtained occupational disease diagnosis certificates from hospitals and were approved by the Bureau of Labor Insurance as having occupational diseases. The High Court also reviewed the medical assessment reports by the Ministry of Labor. In March 2023, the court ruled that the compensation claim was not time-extinguished. According to the agreement, the joint contractors were required to pay NT$700,000 per affected worker, with each company contributing NT$350,000. Taipei MRT Construction Bureau was exempted from liability. After the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, a resolution was reached through court mediation, with New Asia construction agreeing to compensate NT$500,000 for each worker.

     According to OSHA, the occupational disease identification results of this case have provided help to the affected workers. Ultimately, it is the employer's duty to actively prevent occupational accidents. Business entities should adhere to the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and put in place safety equipment and health measures accordingly. In cases where workers suspect they have occupational diseases, or experience occupational accidents and require medical, rehabilitation, or reconstruction needs, workers are encouraged to make effective use of the resources provided by the Ministry of Labor. This includes 17 designated hospitals for occupational injury and disease treatment, and 36 hospitals specializing in functional rehabilitation for patients who have suffered occupational accidents. Information about these specialized hospitals can be found on the OSHA website (https://www.osha.gov.tw) by clicking on the relevant section. 

  • Source:Occupational Accident Labor Protection Division
  • Publication Date:113-01-03
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