KEPCO runs away from the death of workers

▲ Attorney Ha-kyung Ryu (Water Law Firm)

Another young worker died as a result of an industrial accident. This is the case of the late Kim Daun-nim, a subcontractor who died from electric shock. Neither the main contractor nor the subcontractor provided safety equipment to the workers. After the incident, the first words uttered by Korea Electric Power Corporation, the original contractor, were that it was only the orderer. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the construction contractor is not legally liable for industrial accident deaths. However, the Ministry of Employment and Labor is of the view that KEPCO is seen as a contractor rather than a simple orderer. Even in accordance with laws and precedents, KEPCO is never an orderer as shown below.

First, the Occupational Safety and Health Act specifies the ‘orderer’ of ‘construction work’ as an extremely exceptional reason for liability, but the work that KEPCO sent down to its suppliers is electric wire and electrical work. According to the Framework Act on the Construction Industry, electrical works are not considered construction works under the Electrical Construction Business Act.

Second, even if we concede a hundred times and see that the work in this case is a construction project, KEPCO has only the characteristics of a contractor, not an orderer. On November 11, last year, the court made clear the distinction between the orderer and the contractor as follows (Ulsan District Court 2021 Godan 1782). In other words, a “construction contractor” is a person who is not in a position to lead and supervise the construction of a construction project. In the case of forming a part and being carried out in the same place as the contractor’s business ② If there is a special risk factor under the control of the contractor ③ The contractor has the ability to lead and manage the construction, while the contractor has the safety and health regulations prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act Inability to implement health measures on their own was cited. And even in 2017, when the scope of contractors was much narrower than the present before the revision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the past, in the case where a subcontractor worker died from electric shock at KEPCO’s workplace like this case in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, KEPCO said that it was the right contractor and declared KEPCO to be the right contractor for industrial safety. There are already precedents that punish people for violating the Health Act (Cheongju District Law 2018 Godan 1112, Cheongju District Law 2019 No 1244). In the above judgment of the Cheongju District Court, under the premise that under the previous revision of the Industrial Safety and Health Act, ‘construction in a specialized field’ corresponds to a contractor, for the construction in this case, “persons with specialized knowledge and a company equipped with the necessary equipment are required under the Electrical Construction Business Act. The fact that it was necessary to obtain an electricity business license, etc. according to the

Let us apply the criteria of the preceding case to this case. ① The work that the deceased did is ‘electrical switching work’ and KEPCO’s main business is electrical work to supply electricity to the public, so it is difficult to find a business that is more essential and essential to KEPCO than the work in this case. ② This case work deals with high voltage current and is a very high-risk work. Therefore, subcontractors are required to comply with KEPCO’s safety work rules. Specifically, KEPCO regulations mandate that a supervisor be appointed to monitor the work process of workers who perform live wire work and work close to charging parts to prevent safety accidents, and it is specified to work in pairs. As such, high-voltage current work, which is a ‘special risk factor’, is performed under the control of KEPCO. ③ The subcontractor confessed that he could not afford to have all the safety equipment such as live trains while transporting the ‘135,000 won’ work immediately after the incident. That’s right. In other words, subcontractors lack the ability to independently implement safety and health measures, whereas KEPCO has strong capital and sufficient safety facilities. ④ The work in this case is a work that requires special professional skills, such as a certificate of major in live wire work, which cannot be simply ordered.

As we have seen above, KEPCO cannot get out of the exception of the construction project orderer because the work in this case is not a construction work at all, even in accordance with the prescriptive regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. .

KEPCO lied. In the face of the death of a young worker who was performing his company’s duties at his workplace, he is desperate to escape responsibility even by falsely interpreting the law. How can it be so cowardly and cruel? It is a public institution, not an ordinary private company.

Again, this is the issue of outsourcing risk. The work performed by the deceased at the time of the incident was originally carried out by KEPCO until 2020. When KEPCO did the job, they had appropriate working hours and mobilized safe live work vehicles to work in pairs, but these guidelines were not followed as subcontractors took over. In the past three years at KEPCO, 20 workers have lost their lives while working. This means that 7 people die every year while working on electricity.

The late Kim Daun died at the age of 38. It was the day after my birthday. They were scheduled to get married in the coming spring. A subcontractor official came to the emergency room right after the incident and started his first words like this. “I just need to put up a stick to see what happened to my eyes, but I don’t know why it happened.” I will explain why this happened a million times over. That’s because you don’t provide a safe live work vehicle, but a regular truck. It’s because you violated the principle of two people, one team according to the safety rules and sent workers alone. It’s because you’re illegally involved in the work of a live wire that is not the work of the deceased. This incident is 100% your responsibility. Neither of you can escape civil and criminal liability. As KEPCO failed to the end, the bereaved families filed criminal complaints and complaints with the police and the Labor Office, and filed a civil claim for damages to the court. The opponents are KEPCO President Jeong Seung-il, safety management officers below him, and the subcontractors Hwaseong Electric Power and Daesung NC CEO and related employees.

Korea does not make concessions to other countries by mistreating the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in ranking first in industrial accident and fatality rates. The Act on Punishment for Arbitration Disasters, etc. (Severe Accident Punishment Act) will come into effect from the 27th. Punishment is not the only goal. The goal is to prevent problems by conducting a thorough investigation, finding and correcting problems. I hope the Ministry of Labor and the prosecutors do their job well. So, the eyes are hotter than ever, paying attention to how the investigative authorities are handling the late Kim Daun-nim’s case. Both workers and employers are on their own terms.

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