As rescuers continue to try to save a 10-year-old boy, trapped in a hollow concrete pillar in Vietnam’s Dong Thap province, questions are being asked about who should take responsibility for the accident.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, rescue teams had still not reached Hao Nam, who fell into the pillar at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Although the site had been fenced off with wire, the boy and his friends managed to get in to forage for scrap metal. Hao Nam fell into the 25 centimeter (10 inch) diameter pillar, which had not yet been filled by construction workers, the Nhan Dan newspaper reported.
Rescuers were unable to drill down to remove the pillar because the earth around it was too densely packed.
Ho Chi Minh City Ferry Bridge Construction Joint Stock Company and T&T Transport Construction Service Trading Company are building a bridge on the site in Dong Thap’s Thanh Binh district.
Dong Thap Department of Transport and the provincial Traffic Construction Investment Project Management Board are managing the project with the Institute of Transport Science and Technology supervising construction.
On Monday, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh ordered relevant agencies to focus on rescuing the child. He also asked the Ministry of Construction to coordinate with other ministries to inspect the site for any violations of the law.
Dong Thap Department of Transport Director Le Hoang Bao told local media his team was concentrating on rescuing the child and would apportion blame later. He said parents also need to take responsibility for controlling their children.
There have been several accidents involving children on Vietnamese construction sites in recent years. A few weeks ago, rescuers saved a 5-year-old girl who fell into a concrete pit on a site in Dong Nai province. In August 2020, a 7-year-old child fell into an uncovered drain at a Bien Hoa city housing project and died.
Construction engineer Nguyen Van Quang told RFA the latest incident should be considered partly the responsibility of the contractor, even though a child – not a worker – was involved.
“The contractor is the person who organizes the construction of the work according to the approved design documents. In the process, the company must ensure all aspects of the work, with occupational safety paramount,” he said. “Letting children into the construction site without barriers is related to occupational safety.”
Quang said the project consultant also needs to be held responsible because they need to be knowledgeable about the correct safety procedures in order to guide the contractor.
Lawyer Dang Dinh Manh told RFA the project’s investor should take responsibility: “to compensate the child if he is injured or needs treatment, or his parents if they suffer grief or illness as a result of the incident.”
Manh said the contractor may also be held criminally liable.
“The reason is that they have sloppy construction procedures and no measures to ensure the safety of people entering that area,” he said.
Vietnamese government statistics show that each year, more than 370,000 children on average are injured in accidents, with 15 to 19-year olds the biggest group, followed by 5 to 14-year olds, and the smallest group being 0 to 4-year-olds.
Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Written in English by Mike Firn.