Korea’s plan to regulate risk at workplaces causes backlash from businesses

2022.12.01 15:22:01 | 2022.12.01 15:22:38

[Source : Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency]이미지 확대

[Source : Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency]

The South Korean government is set to make risk assessment compulsory to enhance safety at workplaces, causing a backlash from the business circle that argue the move will only add more punishment without revising the Serious Accidents Punishment Act.

the government will revise the Occupational Safety and Health Act to make risk assessment mandatory in several stages, according to the Ministry of Employment and Labor on Wednesday. Its comprehensive plan to reduce serious occupational accidents will include a new framework of workplace risk management and increased support for small- and mid-sized firms.

Through the revision, the government will focus more on prevention systems, under which labor and management should cooperate to find and fix risk factors. It will devise various guidelines companies can use for risk assessment. When serious accidents happen, the government will consider businesses’ prevention efforts in assessing their accountability. In addition, when workers are killed or seriously injured, such efforts will be considered in the process of investigations and trials.

However, the business circle is opposed to the risk assessment. “While advanced nations let businesses operate self-regulated risk management, Korea is moving backward, making it compulsory and imposing punishment,” stated the Korea Enterprises Federation. Businesses have called for easing the Serious Accidents Punishment Act, under which business owners can face more than one year in prison or less than 1 billion won ($754,700) in fines when an accident involve human casualties.

Responding to the criticism, Labor Minister Lee Jung-sik said that the core purpose of the law is reducing disasters instead of punishing business owners.

Meanwhile, the government plans to set up a task force in the first half of next year to review the Serious Accidents Punishment Act to find ways to resolved some of the uncertainties related to the law.

By Seo Jin-woo, Lee Jin-han, and Jenny Lee

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