[Editorial] Low safety awareness

By Korea Herald

Buildings susceptible to heavy snow load

  • Published : Feb 20, 2014 - 19:33
  • Updated : Feb 20, 2014 - 19:33
Immediately after taking office about a year ago, President Park Geun-hye restructured the government. Among the many changes she introduced, one thing puzzled many. She insisted on changing the name of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security to the Ministry of Security and Public Administration.

Changing a ministry’s name involves costs. But Park wanted to put “security” before “public administration” in the ministry’s name simply to demonstrate the new government’s commitment to making Korea a safe and secure society.

On many occasions, Park urged officials to put safety first and make efforts to prevent accidents and disasters. The ministry has also taken a series of measures to ensure the safety of the public.

Despite such efforts, the nation does not seem to have become any safer since Park’s inauguration. Man-made disasters have continued to occur, showing that safety awareness has improved little among government officials, corporations and citizens.

The recent disaster in Gyeongju is a case in point. Ten people were killed and more than 100 injured when the roof of a gymnasium at the Mauna Ocean Resort collapsed Monday. Most of the victims were freshmen of Busan University of Foreign Studies who went there for orientation training.

Prosecutors are still determining the causes of the disaster, but it could have been averted had the officials in charge of managing the facilities removed the snow on the roof.

Gyeongju and neighboring areas had more than 50 centimeters of snow in the previous week. But it never occurred to the resort officials that the building could cave in due to the weight of the snow.

According to news reports, the gymnasium is a pre-engineered metal building. This type of building is economical but may be susceptible to excessive snow because the roof framing and wall system consists of widely spaced steel beams without pillars. If one roof beam collapses, it could cause the whole building system to fall down.

So for pre-engineered metal buildings, basic preventive steps need to be taken in advance of a heavy snow event. But the resort failed to take any safety measures despite the unusually heavy snowfall.

In recent years, many pre-engineered buildings have been constructed across the nation. But the government has not yet drafted safety standards for them. Yet the first thing it needs to do is to conduct safety checks on buildings located in regions that were hit by heavy snow recently.