Safety before profit

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Safety before profit

The Ministry of Labor announced measures for preventing industrial accidents yesterday. The measures, which will take effect in November, will severely punish employers who neglect safety in the workplace. They are based on the assumption that the cause of increased industrial accidents is a lenient attitude toward employers.

Korea is an underdeveloped country in terms of workplace safety management. The national per capita income is approaching the level of an advanced nation but the number of industrial accidents is on the rise. Economic losses due to industrial accidents stood at 8.7 trillion won ($8.5 billion) in 2001, but the figure soared to 16.21 trillion won last year, a whopping 86 percent increase.

As many as 90,000 people had accidents at workplaces last year, of whom 2,400 died. On average, seven people die from industrial accidents every day.

Considering the context, the government’s measures are belated. We shouldn’t have to wait until November. Action should take effect immediately. Right now, the lives of workers in this country are under threat due to incompetent handling of the safety issue.

Stories of people falling from high places, tripping and injuring themselves or getting crushed by machines sound like they take place in underdeveloped countries, but they happen here, too.

The ministry plans to apply the new measures to cover companies of a certain size and above. But the measures should be applied to all small- and medium-sized workplaces as soon as possible.

More than 90 percent of workers exposed to industrial accidents work in small companies employing 300 people or less. You actually face fewer chances of an industrial accident if you work at a large workplace.

Industrial safety is a precondition for becoming a welfare state. How can we discuss welfare if we have to worry about the safety of heads of households when they are at work.

The biggest cause of industrial accidents is employers’ negligence. As long as there is a perception that safety measures increase costs, our workplaces will never be safe. People in industry have to adopt a less blinkered mindset and think of safety as an investment rather than an extra outlay.

Last year, the number of days that workers couldn’t work because of industrial accidents was 118 times more than the number of days that they didn’t work because of management-labor conflicts. Experts say that if these workplaces had proper safety equipment, the number of accidents would be reduced.

Workers also have a responsibility for safety in workplaces. The best safety measure is awareness.

You can’t put too much emphasis on protecting your own safety.
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