Preventing serious accidents, learning from seat belts

▲ Young-seop Lim (Director, People Future Work Institute, Foundation)

The enforcement of the Act on Punishment of Serious Accidents, etc. (Severe Accident Punishment Act) has entered the countdown.

Daily media reports abound. Most of them say that companies are preoccupied with finding ways to avoid punishment. Where did the purpose of this law go, to establish and manage a safety and health management system for disaster prevention?

We fasten our seat belts when we sit in the driver’s seat. Now, it seems that few people are tying them for fear of being caught in the crackdown. When you drive without thinking about it, you tie it like a habit. Habits are not built overnight. It’s not just the oath of punishment if you don’t tie it.

The duty to wear seat belts was first imposed on highway drivers in 1980. After several steps, it was not until 2018, 38 years later, that it became mandatory for all seats to wear seat belts on all roads.

The seat belt wear campaign, launched in April 2001, is an aesthetic of waiting. The first was for police officers of the National Police Agency, the second was for civil servants of the National Assembly and the central government, and the third was for the general public. We gave enough time for the general public to know and respond, and then a full-scale crackdown began.

The crackdown was continuous and continuous. The punishment was not excessively intensified or noisy. While watching the people’s level of interest and adaptability, tightening and slowing it down. Even now, the fine for not wearing a seat belt is 30,000 won.

Regulations are also flexible. Those who are deemed inappropriate to wear seat belts due to injury, disease, disability, pregnancy, height, obesity, or other physical condition are not required to wear the seat belt. It is different from the requirement that a hard hat be worn unconditionally when doing ‘work in which there is a risk of falling or flying or a worker may fall’ at an industrial site.

In 2019, the Occupational Safety and Health Act was completely amended to significantly strengthen the sentence so that a person who causes a fatal accident due to negligence in safety and health measures can be sentenced to up to 7 years in prison. In 2021, the Severe Accident Punishment Act was enacted, punishing the person responsible for causing a serious accident by violating the law to one year or more in prison. The construction safety special bill is still pending in the National Assembly.

According to Hudson, the pathological level is the lowest level of the safety culture ladder, where the main concern is not to get caught by the regulatory body. It is said that the value system related to safety work should be internalized as trust through a calculative level of getting out of this stage and equipped with a safety and health management system, and that all access systems of the organization should aim for a stage based on safety.

In 2018, the number of traffic fatalities per 10,000 cars was 0.5 in the UK, 1.2 in the US, and 1.4 in Korea. The number of fatal accidents per 10,000 workers in 2019 was 0.03 in the UK, 0.37 in the US, and 0.46 in South Korea. Compared to the UK, the number of fatalities in traffic accidents in Korea is 2.8 times higher, while the number of fatalities in workers’ accidents is a whopping 15.3 times.

Maybe we’re in too much of a hurry. If the regulations do not work, maybe they are falling into the illusion that stronger regulations can prevent them. Now, rather than creating new regulations, we need to give time to established regulations. to mature as a culture. * The expert column may differ from the editorial direction of this magazine.

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