When will I be punished for violating the Serious Accident Punishment Act?

▲ Correspondent Jeong Ki-hoon

The Act on Punishment of Serious Accidents, etc. (Severe Accident Punishment Act) comes into effect on the 27th. According to the Serious Accident Punishment Act, a person in charge of a company in which at least one person is killed or at least two persons injured is punished by imprisonment for at least one year or by a fine of not more than 1 billion won.

Of course, not all serious accidents are subject to punishment. If a business manager faithfully fulfills his/her obligation to secure safety and health, he/she will not be penalized.

Serious accidents due to neglect of safety and health obligations
Proof of causality is ‘key’

Kwon Ki-seop, head of the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the Ministry of Employment and Labor, emphasized, “The Serious Accident Punishment Act provides strict punishment when the management manager’s indifference to risks and their acquiescence and neglect lead to serious accidents.” On the 24th, in preparation for the enforcement of the Serious Disaster Punishment Act, this topic was highlighted at a national meeting of agency heads. The three main types of tolerance and neglect of harmful and risk factors revealed at the meeting are △Non-compliance with customary safety rules and work plan △Recurrence of same or similar accidents due to failure to establish and implement disaster prevention measures △Procedures to listen to workers’ opinions It is a case of ignoring or neglecting even if there is no opinion or expressing an opinion. A serious accident that occurs due to any of these reasons is subject to punishment.

When the law goes into effect, it is expected that the prosecution and the Ministry of Labor will focus their investigative powers on the willful proof that the management manager’s acquiescence or neglect has led to a serious accident.

limited impact;
81% of fatal accidents occurred in small businesses

According to the 2020 Industrial Accident Statistics of the Ministry of Labor, 81% of fatal accidents occurred at small workplaces. Businesses with 5 to 49 employees account for 45.6%, and businesses with fewer than 5 employees account for 35.4%. However, the Severe Accident Punishment Act is suspended for three years for workplaces with fewer than 50 employees and excludes applications with fewer than five employees.

The Serious Accident Punishment Act does not work in workplaces where major accidents occur. Proposals for amendments to the Act on the Punishment of Serious Accidents have already been made one after another in the National Assembly. Following Justice Party lawmaker Kang Eun-mi, Open Democratic Party lawmaker Kang Min-jung also proposed an amendment to the Severe Accident Punishment Act to expand the number to businesses with fewer than five employees.

According to the analysis data on the occurrence of serious accidents last year, there were 670 serious accidents, 668 people were killed and 107 people were injured. Among them, the construction industry has the most with 357 (53%). With the collapse of Gwangju on the 11th, voices for enacting a special law on construction safety are growing. It is argued that special measures are necessary to prevent disasters in the construction industry, where disasters are repeated due to illegal multi-level subcontracting, shortening of the period, and poor management and supervision of the original agency. The enactment of the Construction Safety Special Act grants safety management responsibilities commensurate with their authority even to owners who are not subject to the Act on Punishment of Serious Accidents.

For the Serious Accident Punishment Act to work properly, the supervision and administration of the Ministry of Labor for compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act must also change. Taeseon Kang (Health and Safety Engineering), a professor at Semyung University, said, “If the Serious Accident Punishment Act is the area of ​​indirect causality of accidents, the Occupational Safety and Health Act is a regulation on the direct causal relationship with accidents. In order for employers to fulfill their responsibilities, the Ministry of Labor needs to actively enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”


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