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The responsibility for poisoning the workers lies with the management of "Magna", they face up to five years in prison

Nova.rs: 19.01.2024

In two days, more than 150 workers of the Aleksinac factory “Magna” ended up in the hospital due to poisoning, several of them were kept in the hospital, and it is incredible that after the first accident, on January 17, the management of the factory and the competent inspection judged that it was safe to send a new shift of workers, who were poisoned a day later. In the chain of responsibility for endangering the health of workers, the consequences should be borne by the company’s management, the inspection and the prosecution because they risked people’s lives by judging that it was safe to return them to work.

Workers of the third shift of the “Magna” company, a work unit in Aleksinac, who started work on January 17, at one point began to faint. They all had similar symptoms, headache, nausea, burning in the throat and eyes, and everything pointed to poisoning. More than 100 people were poisoned by the fumes of the glue, and the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office from Aleksinac announced “that they are waiting for the situation to be safe in order to take all appropriate actions.”

“The Institute for Public Health, the Labor Inspection and the Sanitary Inspection, and the Institute “1. May”. We have closed the factory until an investigation is carried out and it is established that it is safe to work there. Necessary measurements for the presence of harmful substances will be carried out after the investigation is completed and all circumstances have been determined, they will decide on the initiation of criminal proceedings against those responsible,” the prosecutor’s office stated at the time.

However, company management judged a day later, on January 18, that it was safe for the third shift to continue working, so another poisoning occurred. 57 workers ended up seeing a doctor, and the factory was closed again.

And while the authorities are confused that more than 150 workers were poisoned in two days, lawyer Bratislav Stojanović, who specializes in occupational safety, has no doubt that criminal acts were committed, as well as economic crimes. The only question is who is responsible for everything, and there are many of them, because the whole chain failed.

“The problem is that here there is a connection between the government and foreign companies, there are no strong unions to protect the workers.” I will file a criminal complaint on behalf of one of the injured Magna workers whom I represent,” Stojanović told Nova.rs.

According to him, the Law on Safety at Work has almost certainly been violated, and the question is also which other regulations and laws, as well as whether only the company and the responsible person “Magna” are responsible, or the state as well, as well as various state inspections that are not carried out the control.

“Last year, in May, amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act entered into force, which stipulate everything, but the question is how many companies implemented all these amendments and whether, specifically, the company “Magna” also implemented the new regulations.” The company is obliged to take all measures to ensure the safety and health of its employees. In this case, there is a suspicion that it was not done in the right way. Workers had to have protective equipment, such as masks, that the ventilation system was adequate to expel glue fumes from the plant, but also that employees had a 15-minute break every 45 minutes to an hour, to rest and take shelter from that environment,” explains Stojanović.

The problem is also the quality of the raw materials and materials used in “Magna” from Aleksin, including the synthetic glue based on rubber, which is used in the production of vehicle seats, and which has been identified as the cause of worker poisoning. Competent inspections were probably scheduled there.

“The law provides for a so-called risk assessment to be carried out, and the question is whether it was carried out in this case.” This should be done by professional services and inspection bodies, which should establish whether the company complies with all regulations and obeys all laws. These are the working conditions, but also the training of the workers, who should be trained on how to recognize the signs of poisoning and what to do in that case. Findings and instructions to be issued by expert services and supervisory authorities have legal force and are binding. The question is whether a risk assessment was done at Magna at all, and if not, the special question is why it wasn’t,” explains Stojanović, adding that the penalty stipulated by law for violating this procedure is as much as three million dinars.

The worker, on whose behalf lawyer Stojanović will sue the company, fortunately suffered minor injuries.

“50 people were poisoned, then 100, so does someone have to die in order to do something?” There are elements of at least two criminal offenses and one economic offense here, and it is possible that some other criminal offenses were committed, which I will see when I am better acquainted with the whole case. In question are causing danger by not providing safety measures at work, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to five years and minor bodily injury. We will see who will be charged. This is inadmissible,” the lawyer was outraged.

Should have stopped working

It should be emphasized that the responsibility in this case, in addition to the company, lies with the prosecution itself, which was obliged to suspend work.

He also scheduled the Institute for Safety and Health at Work “1. maj” from Niš, which, according to the president of Aleksinac, Dalibor Radičević, determined that the air was not contaminated, and announced the return of workers to the factory.

Portal Nova.rs sent questions related to the case of poisoning to all competent institutions, in order to check what further actions will be taken.

Director of the Institute for Occupational Safety “1. May”, Milutin Gašević, in a telephone conversation with Nova.rs, said briefly that they had submitted their report to the prosecution and he still did not want to comment. We did not receive any answers to our questions, which we then sent to them via e-mail in order to check how it was possible that the day after the first poisoning, they found that the air was clean.

They were not allowed to enter the facility for 72 hours

Some of the employees of this company spoke to Nova.rs about the working conditions, saying that they were not allowed to enter the plant for 72 hours after the poisoning.

“We assume that there was vaporization of the glue and that it spread through the ventilation pipes.” According to some rule, that part of the plant was not allowed to work at all that day, nor the next, because it takes 72 hours until it is ventilated. However, we came to the shift as normal,” said the worker.

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