Ending worksite accidents

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Ending worksite accidents

Society continues to mourn the 23-year-old university student whose life was brutally shortened after a tragic accident in the port of Pyeongtaek where he worked part-time with his father. President Moon Jae-in also visited his funeral on May 13 and repeatedly ordered measures to prevent accidents at worksites.

Lee died when a 300-kilogram (661-pound) container wing fell on him. His father witnessed his son’s tragic death. After completing his military service, the younger Lee had been working at the port since January before he returned to finish his university degree. The testimony from his father underscores poor safety measures on industrial sites. The younger Lee was assigned with new work without any safety training and did not even have a helmet on at the hazardous site.

A law punishing the employer for slack safety measures took effect under the name of Kim Yong-kyun, a 24-year-old who died in 2018 after being sucked into a conveyor belt while working alone at a thermal power station. But it did not help prevent another tragedy.

Lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties toured the accident site and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries held a meeting to come up with countermeasures. Actions are being devised to toughen the law on serious industrial accidents. But tougher laws are not enough. Labor law expert and lawyer Ki Young-seok pointed out there are multiple factors behind an industrial accident. Ensuring a safety supervisor is at the site is important and government aid is necessary for small companies that cannot afford the extra labor cost.

The latest accident also showed that temporary and agency hires are neglected in safety measures and training. Employers must thoroughly check whether safety protection is fully provided not only for their own staff but also for agency hires.

Moon ordered the government to find solutions from the accident. No law or penalties will be enough to prevent accidents if they do not comply with reality. Young people who take on hard and hazardous jobs shunned by many are the pillars of society’s future. Their valuable lives must not be wasted due to negligence.
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