Ahead of the enforcement of the Act on Punishment of Serious Accidents, etc. on January 27 next year, the Ministry of Employment and Labor urged the business world to change its attitude, which is concentrating on preparing measures to avoid punishment. Some predicted that it would be difficult to avoid punishment because the management manager’s duty to prevent accidents was unclear under the legal text, or because the manager was ignorant of the law.
On the afternoon of the 1st, the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Justice held a joint academic conference to prepare for the enforcement of the Serious Disaster Punishment Act at the Korea Press Center in Jung-gu, Seoul. Kwon Ki-seop, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Ministry of Labor, gave a keynote lecture, followed by presentations and discussions by experts and labor unions.
“Judges should play a role in making stricter punishments”
The Ministry of Labor prevents, manages, and supervises serious industrial accidents among the serious accidents stipulated by the Serious Accident Punishment Act. Director Kwon said, “After the law was enacted, the CEO and management are interested in occupational safety, but there are also people who are concerned about avoiding punishment rather than preventing serious accidents. The purpose is to reduce fatal accidents by making serious disasters a target of punishment,” he explained. It is explained that the policy will continue to respond to general industrial accidents by expanding the scope of industrial accident compensation, while reducing the number of fatal accidents with the Serious Accident Punishment Act. He said, “The Serious Accidents Punishment Act strongly demands a change in the attention and attitude of business managers regarding serious accidents. .
Kim Seong-ryong, a professor at Kyungpook National University Law School, argued that it can be difficult to prove causality to determine whether a serious accident occurred due to the negligence of the person in charge of management. He argued that it is necessary to consider whether the method of criminally punishing the manager or imposing a fine on the corporation is more effective in preventing serious accidents. Professor Kim said, “Even if the Serious Disaster Punishment Act is enforced, there can be many acquittals due to the problem of insufficient causality proof, and we must admit such a point. We need a legislative role so that we can punish them severely.” The purpose is to amend the law.
Judge “Is it unclear what the duties of the chief executive officer are? unacceptable”
Kim Yong-hee, chief judge of the Ulsan District Court, who appeared as a panelist, saw that difficulties in proving a causal relationship would be inevitable, as long as the legislation to punish business managers rather than fines was chosen. However, Chief Justice Kim insisted that there would be no major difficulties for the law to work. Judge Kim said, “If the person in charge of the business is responsible for the (safety and health management) obligation imposed by the Act on the Punishment of Serious Disasters, it is not allowed to claim that he or she is unaware of the obligation. There is a high possibility that he will be considered an intentional criminal in court.” This means that even if the manager claims that he or she has failed to comply with his obligations because he does not know the details of the law, it will not be accepted.
Regarding the scope of the manager, he said, “The purpose of making the law is to hold the final decision maker accountable. If you are in a position, you cannot be considered a manager.” It is explained that even if a person in charge of safety and health work is separately appointed, the CEO will eventually take responsibility if he is not given considerable authority.
Chief Justice Kim Yong-hee also suggested as an alternative to prepare detailed rules for each type of accident in order to increase the effectiveness of the law. For example, to prevent falls or jamming, which are the most common types of serious disasters, specific safety regulations are mandated and specified in the bill.
Labor and management repeated the previous argument. Choi Myung-seon, head of the Labor Safety and Health Office of the KCTU, argued that “The Serious Accident Punishment Act mandates that management managers be given comprehensive duties to prevent serious accidents because risk factors are diversifying due to industrial changes and changes in the employment structure.” Moon Seong-deok, head of the Central Court of Justice of the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, ordered, “The investigative agency and the courts should interpret and implement the law so that the purpose of this law can be fully realized.” Lim Woo-taek, head of the Safety and Health Headquarters of the Korea Economic Daily, said, “Isn’t it possible to obey the law only if you know what you must do to receive immunity?