Industrial accidents rules relaxed for compensation

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Industrial accidents rules relaxed for compensation

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Victims of work-related illnesses and accidents are often not compensated by the government because of the strict criteria for their ailments to be recognized as such.

Such was the case for 55-year-old cook Cho. One year ago, he collapsed in the kitchen of the restaurant he was working at. He worked 12 hours a day in the kitchen, six days a week. The hospital diagnosed him with a stroke induced from overwork.

Cho applied to the government for compensation but was denied.

Current government standards define overwork as “excessive physical or mental burden compared to everyday tasks for over three months.”

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The Ministry of Employment and Labor outlined its plans Thursday to drastically revise its stringent regulations to accommodate more victims of work-related illnesses and accidents to be qualified to receive compensation.

In its revisions, the ministry plans to define overwork as “working more than 60 hours for 12 consecutive weeks.” Cho, under such regulation, would qualify as being overworked.

The labor ministry held a policy forum yesterday to discuss a revision on the current recognition standards for work-related illnesses attended by officials, labor union representatives, experts and Labor Minister Lee Chae-pil. It gathered the opinions voiced at the forum to further bolster its revision policies.

Of the proposed revisions, the ministry especially expanded upon its current regulations to accommodate more circumstances and diseases for industrials workers who are faced with accidents or exposure to hazardous materials.

Currently, there are nine substances, including benzene and tar, recognized by the ministry as materials in the workplace which can contribute to nine types of cancer - such as lung, liver and skin cancer.

However, in the revisions, the ministry wants to increase the number of substances recognized as contributing to cancer by 14 more, including nickel compounds. The types of cancer it recognizes would be increased to 21 to include breast, ovarian, stomach and colorectal cancer.

Likewise, currently 19 different substances such as iron and copper are recognized as contributing to later respiratory problems. The ministry would include another 14 substances, including nickel and reactive dyes.

As for materials that can cause acute poisoning, currently 12 substances including mercury and benzene are listed, but eight more substances including hydrofluoric acid and carbon monoxide will be included in the proposed amendments.

Furthermore, the ministry wants to recognize mental illness as a valid condition that can result from hazardous working conditions, and the new draft regulation would include post-traumatic stress disorder.

“For the past year, with continuous cooperation with labor unions, case studies and surveys, we pushed to bolster objectivity and expertise,” said a labor ministry official.

Labor Minister Lee said, “As additional new harmful substances are added and the classification system is revised to cater to the workers, the regulation on the recognition standards for work-related diseases will advance to another level.”


By Sarah Kim, Kim Hye-mi [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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