[EDITORIALS]Keeping workers safeThe number of laborers who suffered from industrial disasters and the economic loss arising from such mishaps have doubled in the past five years. Last year alone, 94,924 workers were affected by industrial mishaps and 2,923 among them lost their lives. The amount of economic loss exceeded 12 trillion won ($10.4 billion). As the trend is said to continue this year, the situation is getting serious.
The distinctive feature of industrial disasters nowadays is that six out of 10 victims are unskilled workers with less than a year’s job experience. Because the number of substitute workers dispatched from manpower suppliers and irregular workers has increased greatly, they meet accidents more often before they get used to the job. Therefore, intensifying industrial safety education to unskilled workers has become an urgent task.
But a more fundamental cause of increased accidents lies in low national awareness of industrial safety. Industrial accidents started to increase in 1997 when the special law on “easing regulations on business activities” was enacted. At that time, the government recklessly deregulated industrial safety rules under the excuse of lessening burdens on businesses. Although safety rules are considered to be the minimum safety device for saving human lives and thus are being strengthened in advanced countries, Korea has run counter to the trend.
Since 1997, 29 kinds of safety checks including regular checks on press machines and lifts were discarded, and another 29 safety measures including selection of safety control managers were eased. Regular checks on press machines are observed in Japan, Germany and Britain, and checks on lifts are carried out in Germany, Taiwan, France and Britain. The rapid increase in the number of deaths in the construction sector is due to the abolishment of the duty to submit a plan to prevent industrial accidents regularly.
The government must review current unprincipled industrial safety policy. The Regulation Reform Committee should be represented by industrial safety specialists. Businesses were inactive because the government was negligent. Reasonable regulations recommended internationally must be strengthened. Passing responsibility to subcontractors must end. The OECD and EU prescribe that the government is responsible for the prevention of large industrial disasters.